Ireland pummel Wales to lift Six Nations hopes
Ireland dealt a devastating blow to Welsh dreams of an historic hat-trick of Six Nations titles with a comprehensive 26-3 win at the Aviva stadium on Saturday.
In the latest sign of a revival under new coach Joe Schmidt, the Irish went 13-0 up in the first half after flanker Chris Henry forced his way over the Welsh line.
Flyhalf Jonny Sexton kicked four penalties and his replacement, Paddy Jackson, surged across the line in the 79th minute and converted his try to seal Wales's first away loss in the Six Nations since 2011.
"We haven't done the jersey justice over the past couple of ... years," said Ireland's man of the match Peter O'Mahony "It's time we start to make this place into a bit of a fortress."
Ireland endured their worst Six Nations championship in 14 years last season, winning just one game and narrowly avoiding a first wooden spoon since a whitewash in 1998 by finishing ahead of France on points difference.
The poor performance spelled the end of Declan Kidney's five-year tenure and two times Heineken Cup winning coach Schmidt took charge in November and brought Ireland within 30 seconds of a famous victory over world champions New Zealand.
Having beaten Scotland in their opening match last weekend, Ireland will travel to England in two weeks' time in search of the Triple Crown.
Wales will need to show a drastic improvement to beat France in Cardiff if they are to keep their hopes alive of becoming the fist team to win three consecutive outright Six Nations titles.
Ireland got the better of scrappy early exchanges with Sexton converting two penalties in the first 20 minutes.
Their breakthrough came after half an hour when a Sexton chip forced Wales to concede a five metre line-out, allowing Henry to touch down from the resulting Irish maul. Sexton converted to leave it 13-0 at halftime
Wales, who squeezed past a dogged Italy 23-15 in their opening match, grew sloppier as Ireland upped the intensity in the second half.
Ireland held off a wave of Welsh attacks with captain Paul O'Connell providing some crucial tackles, but Leigh Halfpenny managed to convert a spell of Welsh pressure into three points from a penalty after 55 minutes.
A probing attack brought Wales within centimetres of the Irish line, but English referee Wayne Barnes handed Ireland a penalty to clear after deeming the visitors guilty of a double movement and there was no way back.
Ireland then stormed back to score a last-minute try with scrumhalf Conor Murray offloading to Jackson to complete Wales' humiliation.
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