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Published: 17:07 | 7/2/16

Ireland draw with Wales

Tight encounter ends 16-16

Ireland and Wales played out a thrilling 16-16 draw after a hard physical battle at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

Ireland raced into a 13-0 lead courtesy of a Conor Murray try and eight points from Jonathan Sexton before Wales hit back through Toby Faletau's try and eleven points from the boot of Rhys Priestland.

But Sexton landed a late penalty to level the scores which was probably fair reward for both sides after a tight, high quality encounter where defences ultimately reigned supreme.

Ireland started strongly and took the game to Wales from the first whistle. They earned their reward after 17 attacking phases within the opening four minutes when the visitors were pinged for offside, with Sexton slotting the resulting penalty to make it 3-0.

Wales looked to hit back immediately, but Andrew Trimble put in a try-saving tackle as the Irish defence stood firm and Devin Toner was able to break up field.

Sexton doubled Ireland's advantage on eleven minutes as the Welsh transgressed once again.

Dan Biggar spurned a chance to halve the advantage from out wide on 18 minutes after Ireland were penalised for wheeling the scrum.

The out-half was forced off moments later with an ankle injury, with Priestland coming in.

Man-of-the-match CJ Stander was inches away from a try on his international debut, but the grounding was unclear and Ireland had to settle from a five-metre scrum.

But they weren't to be denied as a couple of phases later Murray crossed for a well-deserved try.

Sexton added the extras to make it 13-0 with 28 minutes on the clock.

Wales were finally on the board on 32 minutes courtesy of a Priestland penalty after Keith Earls was penalised for a dangerous tackle.

The visitors were beginning to dominate up front and were right back in the game five minutes later as Faletau touched down after a series of scrums close to the Irish line.

Priestland added the conversion to leave the game finely poised at 13-10 at the break.

The momentum appeared to be shifting towards Wales and they had the Irish defence under intense pressure immediately after the restart and Priestland levelled the scores after Tommy O'Donnell was penalised for going off his feet.

But Ireland responded and a good Simon Zebo break almost led to a second try, but the ball was knocked on and the Welsh defence were able to boot clear.

Ireland continued to take the game to Wales in a hugely physical battle but struggled to break down the Welsh defence.

It was looking more and more like a one-score game as the clock counted down and, after 27 phases deep in the Irish half, the home side finally coughed up a penalty for not rolling away.

Priestland showed nerves of steel to put the Welsh ahead for the first time in the game with just eight minutes remaining.

It looked as though it could be the decisive score but Wales were penalised shortly after the restart for not retreating behind the kicker and Sexton duly obliged from the ten-metre line to make it 16-16.

Priestland was off target with a drop-goal attempt two minutes from the end as both teams fought for the victory that would keep their Triple Crown hopes alive.

The clock ran two minutes over before Justin Tipuric finally knocked on to allow referee Jerome Garces to blow the final whistle on an intriguing contest.

By: Kieran O'Daly

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