Wales wins 6 Nations Grand Slam by beating Ireland 25-7
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Wales shrugged off the rain, wind and Ireland to win the Six Nations and complete the Grand Slam on Saturday.
As Storm Gareth battered Cardiff, 'Storm Gareth Anscombe' was swamping Ireland inside the Principality Stadium with six penalties as Wales beat the defending champion 25-7.
Victory earned Wales its first Six Nations title since 2013, and its first Grand Slam since 2012. And the team gave coach Warren Gatland, who will step down after the Rugby World Cup later this year, a perfect Six Nations sendoff.
He started his Wales reign in 2008 with a sweep and finishes with another, making him the first coach in the championship's 136-year history to win three Grand Slams.
Wales saved its best for last in the worst conditions.
It produced a try after 69 seconds by Hadleigh Parkes off an expert chip by Anscombe, and Wales forced penalties that Anscombe landed from far and wide to slowly sink Ireland's hopes of retaining the championship.
The Irish, Grand Slam winners last year when they were the last team to beat Wales, finished third.
The Welsh harangued the Irish into misfires in the set-pieces and forced errors at the breakdowns, while the visitors conceded eight penalties in a first half after which they trailed 16-0 and were too far back to overcome a home side fired up by their wet but joyful fans.
The Welsh made the perfect start with a lineout from kickoff, a couple of rucks, an Anscombe chip with his right foot and Parkes catching and scoring, causing the home fans to erupt.
Moments later, Parkes saved Wales. Ireland received a penalty outside its 22. Johnny Sexton noticed Wales wing George North was busy receiving treatment on his bandaged left forearm. Sexton crosskicked for Jacob Stockdale, who charged down the touchline but was caught by Parkes 10 meters out and knocked on.
North walked off, Dan Biggar moved to flyhalf, Anscombe went to fullback and Liam Williams switched to right wing. And the Welsh purred on.
Sexton was caught off his feet and Anscombe kicked a penalty, 40 meters out and hugging the right touchline, for 10-0.
Ireland tried to make a statement when it received a kickable penalty but went for an attacking lineout maul. But Wales spat it back and got the scrum put-in. Ireland didn't get as close to the tryline again for another 40 minutes.
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones stole a throw-in from Ireland captain Rory Best and made 10 meters before forcing an offside penalty. Anscombe's second penalty, from 41 meters, made it 13-0.
Back on attack, Anscombe's third penalty, from another offside, in injury time put the home side on top at the break.
Wales came from 16-0 down against France in Paris in the opening round, achieving the biggest comeback win since the tournament expanded in 2000. But Wales got a big hand from France that rainy day, and the momentum it needed in the championship. If Ireland thought it could pull off the same, Wales was not in a giving mood.
Ireland responded as expected from the team which started the championship as favorite, and put on some pressure. But the conditions and Wales' defense, tough all tournament, thwarted the Irish. And Anscombe was perfect.
His fourth penalty was for a Cian Healy tackle off the ball, the fifth made it a scarcely believable 22-0 in less than an hour, and the sixth was for another Irishman off his feet in a ruck. Wales deserved its record-extending 14th straight win but late penalties allowed a desperate Ireland to score a consolation try by replacement fullback Jordan Larmour.