Counted out time and time again, Brian O’Driscoll keeps coming back, this time with a tremendous match in the 2013 Six Nations opener, leading Ireland to a very impressive away win against Wales after a perfect first half and an enormous defensive effort, sometimes with 14 men, in the second.
O’Driscoll actually scored his try right at the beginning of the second half, as the Welsh side was still trying to understand how they’re so far behind at home, with the Grand Slam from last year disappearing in the rear window. Ireland were the more physical side from the first moment, with Connor Murray and Johnny Sexton outplaying their Welsh counterparts, while the talent of Wales – Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Biggar, Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert couldn’t handle the intensity of the earlier moments.
Foolish penalties, terrible passes and even worse lineouts will be discussed after the match at the Wales camp, but it also had to do with some terrible tackling, as Ireland went for speed instead of size in their lineup, paying off for the first 40 minutes.
The first try came from Simon Zebo in a wonderful performance. Some brilliant hands and passing from O’Driscoll took advantage of an undermanned wing for Wales, to give Ireland the early lead. Thirteen minutes later came the moment that probably broke Wales, as Rory Best charged and blocked a kick, leading to Simon Zebo delivering some fancy footwork to keep the ball in play, leading to Cian Healy’s try. The first half ended 23-3 in Ireland’s favor.
After O’Driscoll’s try to open the second half the momentum changed. Maybe too much of a lead is a bad thing, and Ireland collapsed within themselves, letting Wales take over the field. Finally, some great passing led to their first try of the match as Alex Cuthbert broke through the lines after some clever decoy work by Jamie Roberts. Wales kept on pressing but great tackling and a costly turnover that almost gave Ireland a chance to score on the counter seemed to slow them down.
Rory Best got sinned binned in the 57th minute, and shortly afterwards Liegh Halfpenny scored a try, making it 30-15. However, he did miss the conversion, forcing Wales to remain a three score distance, which probably hurt their confidence. From here it was mostly waves of Welsh players crashing on the Irish defense, with Sean O’Brien, Rory Best, Cian Healy and others pulling off a tremendous effort in keeping Wales at bay. A late try from Craig Mitchell only made the score line look a tad more respectable (30-22), not leaving the home side enough time to come back.
Ireland don’t have their most talented side ever, but they do look like a more together team than in the previous year, especially with a lot of focus and precision in the start. Maybe it has to do with O’Driscoll trying to earn his spot for the Lions tour, maybe it’s just a one-time special effort before the suns sets. However, with this start, they put Wales in a lot of trouble looking forward, looking rather bad for very long stretches of the match in their home opener.