CARDIFF, United Kingdom: Ireland survived a second-half comeback to kick-off their Six Nations campaign with a victory here Saturday and consign Wales to an eighth successive defeat.
Declan Kidney’s men raced into 30-3 lead thanks to tries from Simon Zebo, Cian Healy and Brian O’Driscoll.
The game appeared dead and buried but Wales fought back with touchdowns of their own from Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny and Craig Mitchell.
However, it was not enough as Ireland hung on, and Declan Kidney’s men can now look forward to welcoming England to the Aviva Stadium next week, while wounded Wales face a daunting trip to France.
Wales made a bright start at the Millennium Stadium but Ireland quickly took control of the encounter.
They launched a sustained period of pressure and they raced into the lead thanks to a bit of magic from veteran center O’Driscoll.
After Rob Kearney fixed the Welsh defense with a clever dummy run, the Leinster legend mesmerized them to send Zebo into the corner.
Sexton slotted the conversion and Ireland continued to exert their dominance on the encounter, threatening the Welsh whitewash on several occasions.
Ireland settled for a Sexton penalty on 21 minutes, as Andrew Coombs came in from the side and was fortunate to escape a yellow card.
Within a matter of minutes the visitors extended their lead further when Dan Biggar, making his first appearance in the Six Nations, saw his clearance charged down by Rory Best, who re-gathered.
Best found Heaslip in support and the ball was flung to Zebo, who demonstrated sublime footballing ability to flick it into his hands.
The Munster wing was held by Halfpenny but Peter O’Mahony and Craig Gilroy maintained the pressure and Healy drove over.
Sexton added the extras and slotted a second penalty to stretch Ireland’s lead to 20 points before Halfpenny hit back with Wales’ first points.