Ireland beat Wales 19-10 to claim No. 1 spot in World Rugby Rankings

Irish fans celebrate as Tadhg Furlong's try early in the second half put Ireland back in front on the scoreboard.

Ireland had an impressive 3-try 19-10 victory over Wales in their Guinness Summer International game at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Saturday afternoon, and in the process claimed the No. 1 in the World Rugby Rankings ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

In what was captain Rory Best’s 120th International game, and his and Head Coach Joe Schmidt’s final home match in Dublin, an improved second half performance saw the hosts claim a nine-point success over their Celtic neighbours, who looked dead on their feet in the closing stages of Ireland’s final World Cup warm-up game.

In an opening half where Wales dominated both possession and territory, it was the home side which opened the scoring through fullback Rob Kearney.

Excellent footwork in the 22nd minute from the Co. Louth native came at the end of a movement which started with an Irish lineout. James Ryan won the lineout ball, before a move which involved Conor Murray and the progress-making CJ Stander, eventually allowed Jonathan Sexton the time to deliver an exact pass to Kearney, who touched down for the five-pointer. Sexton then added the extras for a 7-0 lead.

Warren Gatland’s side had a chance as early as ninety seconds into the game when Jean Kleyn, who filled many column inches during the past few days since he was chosen for Joe Schmidt’s World Cup squad instead of Leinster’s Devon Toner, found himself offside. The penalty seemed to offer Leigh Halfpenny an easy opportunity to draw first blood, but surprisingly for a man of his quality, the Welsh kicker sent the ball right and wide of the posts.

Later, a loose centrefield pass from Ireland saw replacement Dan Biggar burst towards the Ireland end, and with the try line seemingly at his mercy, Kearney prevented the outhalf from touching the ball down.

When Wales were awarded a penalty shortly after the Ireland try, Halfpenny opted to claim the points from the very scoreable penalty, and his accuracy on this occasion reduced the home side’s lead to 7-3.

The visitors claimed their only try of the game as centre Hadley Parkes dived over from close range to score, a move which seemed to surprise the Irish defensive effort. Fullback Halfpenny extended his side’s lead to 10-7 with just over half an hour on the clock, a score that would remain until the 11th minute of the second half.

In the early stages of the second period, prop Tadhg Furlong bulldozed over the try-scoring line left of the posts as Ireland went back into the lead on 51 minutes. Sexton, from a stride outside the 22m line, converted the try to move Joe Schmidt’s side into a 14-10 lead.

Guinness Man of the Match James Ryan scored Ireland’s third and final try of the afternoon when using all of his tall frame to stretch over the line for the five-pointer. French referee Mathieu Raynal, who believed the try was valid, checked with his TMO who found no reason not to award the score. Jonathan Sexton’s conversion attempt, his poorest kick of the game, saw the ball swing too far left and fail to come back in enough to cross the bar, leaving Ireland with a 19-10 advantage, one they held until the final whistle.

The Ireland squad and management leave for the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan next Wednesday, and will face Six Nations rivals Scotland in their opening Group game in the competition.

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