Six NationsMatch Reaction

Andy Farrell hails tenacious nature of Ireland’s win over Wales

‘There was all sorts of stuff going on in that game . . . but we stuck at it and brought them down in the end’

Good teams find a way, or at any rate if Plan A doesn’t work, go to Plan B, and while Ireland were made to struggle more than was widely anticipated by a spirited Wales side, Andy Farrell hailed the resilience his players showed to find a way to win, even varnishing the victory with a bonus point in the game’s final play.

Ireland’s intricate, short-passing game failed to unlock the stubborn Welsh defence so they turned to their scrum and maul. Then, when Warren Gatland’s side dragged them into an unexpectedly tough tussle in the third quarter and beyond, Ireland put their wheels to the shoulder in defence before turning to their bench and powering to the finish.

“If you fast-forward right to the end result and then work our way back, I thought we was tenacious to be able to get to that point, a 31-7 win with a bonus point.

“There was all sorts of stuff going on in that game. Some of it was our own doing but most of it was because we played against a tenacious Welsh side as well. So congratulations to them, but we stuck at it and brought them down in the end.”


Farrell’s team thus recorded a record-equalling 11th successive victory in the Six Nations and remain on course to become the first Irish side to complete back-to-back Grand Slams.

The expectation will be that Ireland will have to play better in Twickenham a fortnight hence, but Farrell said: “I can’t really answer that because we wanted to be better today, but the opposition always have a say in that, and Wales certainly did.

“For the dominance that we had in the scrum in the first half, I felt we could have had a bit of a better lead going into half-time. But having said that coming out in the second half I thought we were in the right place. But it was penalties all over the place and it was a bit stop-start, but we found our way again and found a way to get back going and get the result we were after.”

Indeed, such was the erratic officiating that the 9-4 penalty count of the first-half in Ireland’s favour – with somehow no yellow cards for Wales – that the Italian referee Andrea Piardi performed something of a volte face after half-time, when the penalty count was 9-3 to Wales, with two yellow cards for Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan, and a questionable penalty try to the visitors.

“Again, that’s just the game isn’t it,” said Farrell, who nonetheless admitted he was “a bit confused with the penalty try and when the ball is not down, or you can’t see whether the ball is down or not, I don’t know how that can be a penalty try.

“But obviously it was [given], so we take that. And the pleasing thing about that is that we weren’t trying to run the clock down to get Tadhg back on the field, we were the team advancing and playing all the rugby. So, our intent through that period and that little bit of adversity got us going again.”

Gatland, while proud of his team’s performance, was also bemused by some of the penalties against his side, and reckoned that the 31-7 scoreline didn’t reflect the contest.

But Farrell countered, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, by stating: “It probably should have been 40 or 44-7, there were a couple of tries that were notched off there ... I thought we got what we deserved in the end. If the forward pass from Robbie [Henshaw] hadn’t have been knocked off I thought that was going to be an unbelievable try, and again, it was finding a way to make inroads,” said Farrell of the Bundee Aki try that was chalked off.

“I actually thought they defended really well at times. It was hard to break down but to get the bonus-point win, 31-7, I thought we should have been further up in the first half to be fair. But I do understand that this is a young Welsh side that’s trying to gain experience as well, and I thought they played bloody tough, that’s for sure.”

The Irish head coach readily admitted that the impact of his bench, notably Rónan Kelleher, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan and James Ryan in its 6-2 split, made a significant impact.

“It was huge. They were always going to come on and add some power in the first place, when you bring a bit of power on to the field when others are a bit tired, and for that 10 minutes of the yellow card it was free-flowing and there were people sucking it in big time.

“They [the Irish replacements] were always going to take advantage of that and they got us back on the front foot. That’s the job, that’s what we expect of them.”

This was a landmark debut for Oli Jager off the bench, and also Ciarán Frawley, who marked his first Test start with an increasingly influential display and his first international try.

“He was solid enough,” said Farrell. “A big day for him and Gats was saying all week they were going to test him. He’s always solid. His skill set is sound and he is always solid under the high ball, has hands, and he communicates well as well. I suppose he will be glad that’s done now and he can build on it.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times