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Ireland vs. Wales: Score and Reaction from 2016 Six Nations Round 1

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2016

DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Dan Biggar of Wales is wrapped up by Conor Murray and Simon Zebo of Ireland during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

Wales held Ireland to a draw for the first time since 1974, with the pair tying 16-16 at the Aviva Stadium in the 2016 Six Nations on Sunday.

A thrilling first half saw the hosts go 13-0 up thanks to two Johnny Sexton penalties and a Conor Murray try, but the visitors had narrowed the deficit to just three points by the break through a penalty from Rhys Priestland and Taulupe Faletau going over.

Another Priestland kick saw Wales equalise at the start of the hard-fought second half and the Welshman converted another penalty again late on, but Sexton kept his cool to ensure Ireland shared the spoils.

Ireland started the brighter of the two sides and took a narrow lead within five minutes, with Sexton making the kick after Wales were penalised for offside. The visitors responded well to the setback, but Ireland remained dangerous on the counter-attack and earned another penalty as they pushed into the Wales 22, and Sexton duly doubled their tally to 6-0.

Dan Biggar missed a difficult kick of his own to reduce the deficit, but the Irish were firmly on top and almost grabbed the first try of the game, only to be denied by the Television Match Official, per ITV Rugby:

ITV Rugby @ITVRugby

TMO! Ireland over the line but grounding unclear, no try! - brought to you by @PeugeotUK #PeugeotRugby #IREvWAL https://t.co/Fm52fCRpld

Ireland soon went over, though, when Murray wriggled through the Welsh line with Sexton adding the extras, per ITV Rugby:

ITV Rugby @ITVRugby

TRY! Watch Ireland No.9 Conor Murray dart over to score - brought to you by @PeugeotUK #PeugeotRugby #IREvWAL https://t.co/GukZOxRaga

Pundit Jonathan Davies believed it was a deserved try but questioned Priestland's decision-making in the build-up:

Jonathan Davies OBE @JiffyRugby

Had to come. Great pressure. Why didn't Priestland touch ball down for 22 drop out to relive the pressure.

Wales finally got on the board in the 32nd minute through Priestland's penalty and set about building up some pressure of their own, which was rewarded just before the break when Faletau bowled over Murray on his way over, per ITV Rugby:

ITV Rugby @ITVRugby

TRY! Wales back in it, Faletau powers over the line, game on! - brought to you by @PeugeotUK #PeugeotRugby #IREvWAL https://t.co/iIOgv1zl7M

Rugby journalist Simon Thomas singled out Wales' Rob Evans for particular praise at the break:

Simon Thomas @simonrug

Thirteen tackles in the first half from Rob Evans and powerful scrummaging too. Impressive stuff.

The visitors maintained their momentum into the second half and Priestland missed an attempted drop goal, but he made no mistake after Tommy O'Donnell was sanctioned for going off his feet in a ruck and kicked Wales level.

That would be the last score for some time, though, as both teams defended solidly for much of the rest of the contest, demonstrated well here by Jamie Robert's powerful stop of Robbie Henshaw:

ITV Rugby @ITVRugby

BOSH! Jamie 'The Wall' Roberts shuts out Robbie Henshaw - brought to you by @PeugeotUK #PeugeotRugby #IREvWAL https://t.co/M2h1IBmcZo

Meanwhile, Tom James made an outstanding recovery tackle to deny Andrew Trimble a try after the Irishman latched onto a lovely pass from Sexton.

With seven minutes of normal time remaining, Priestland looked to have made a decisive kick for Wales:

ITV Rugby @ITVRugby

Rhys Priestland kicks Wales into the lead! - brought to you by @PeugeotUK #PeugeotRugby #IREvWAL 13-16 https://t.co/ZRtCbjPWxP

However, after taking the lead for the first time in the match, the Welsh were quickly pegged back when Sexton showed remarkable composure once again:

ITV Rugby @ITVRugby

Ireland's Johnny Sexton held his nerve to level the score - brought to you by @PeugeotUK #PeugeotRugby #IREvWAL https://t.co/RjTKkFbYaP

With the Irish intent on pursuing a historic hat-trick of Six Nations wins, a draw was hardly an ideal result, with a potentially tricky trip to France looming next, though they at least gained something from the match.

Wales host Scotland in their next outing, who will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to England. If they can defend as solidly as they did here—in the second half especially—they could just take the game, but they'll need to show more of a threat going forward.  

Post-Match Reaction

According to ITV Rugby, Wales head coach Warren Gatland had an interesting take on the game as he said of the draw: "I feel like I've been kissing my sister!"

Per Mike Henson of BBC Sport, he added to ITV: "Both teams will be frustrated. But we're still in the competition. We started poorly in the first 20 minutes, after that we raised the tempo and got into the game. It was a soft penalty for them to tie the game, but perhaps a fair reflection."

Meanwhile, per Henson, Ireland captain Rory Best told ITV:

"A draw is a hard result to put into words. We're happy we didn't lose the game. After going behind for the first time with six minutes or so remaining, we showed great character to come back and get the draw. That's the positive and we have a lot of work-ons to work on."

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