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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Six Nations: Wales outclass Ireland to clinch Grand Slam

Warren Gatland achieves third Grand Slam as captain Alun Wyn Jones admits Wales have 'put a big target on our backs before the World Cup'

Wales team celebrate after beating Ireland to secure the 2019 Six Nations and Grand Slam. Getty Images
Wales team celebrate after beating Ireland to secure the 2019 Six Nations and Grand Slam. Getty Images

Wales thrashed Ireland 25-7 at the Principality Stadium on Saturday to claim a record third Six Nations Grand Slam of Warren Gatland's time in charge.

Gareth Anscombe kicked 20 points as Wales extended their winning streak to 14 matches as they moved up to second in the World Rugby rankings while earning a massive confidence boost ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

The Grand Slam was the 12th achieved by Wales, who opened this campaign with a 24-19 victory over France before following up with wins over Italy (26-15), England (21-13) and Scotland (18-11).

It was the third under Gatland in his 50th and final Wales game in European rugby's showcase tournament following Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012, and a first Six Nations title since 2013.

"Anything can happen when you work hard and you're a proud nation and we've shown that," Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones told the BBC.

"Warren's the man at the top and we've been under pressure but he's always been unwavering. He's got a bit left on his contract but I'm sure we'll miss him when he's eventually gone.

"At times we've been unconvincing so we like to think there's still potential in us. We're well aware we've just put a big target on our backs before the World Cup."

The tone of what turned out to be an electrifying start was set from the off. Winger George North followed up on Anscombe's kick-off, catching Jacob Stockdale in possession and driving him into touch.

The crowd, barely in their seats, were quickly galvanised as Ken Owens peeled off the attacking line-out, Hadleigh Parkes gathering Anscombe's dink over the top to touch down within two minutes, the fly-half converting.

Parkes was then on hand to produce a superb try-saving tackle on Stockdale in what turned out to be Ireland's best chance of the game.

When Johnny Sexton was pinged for a ruck infringement in the 18th minute, Anscombe made no mistake with the penalty to stretch Wales' lead.

Anscombe increased the home side's lead to 16 points with two further penalties just before half-time.

Cian Healy then gave away a soft penalty with an off-the-ball hit on opposite number Tomas Francis, Anscombe hitting an elementary three points to take Wales out to 19-0.

Further ill-discipline handed Anscombe a fifth shot at goal, and he made no mistake with Ireland looking increasingly ragged.

There was a late consolation try for Ireland from Jordan Larmour, converted by Jack Carty, as the team avoided a first whitewash since 1990.

"It's hard to put into words what this means, we've worked incredibly hard over the last year. We have a habit of winning. It's a special group and we worked hard for each other," man of the match Anscombe said.

"We wanted to enjoy it. We're in the best stadium in the world in front of our people and we wanted to take the game to them.

"It hasn't all been smooth sailing. For me it's a day and weekend to remember for Welsh rugby."

France sign off with win

France wing Damian Penaud, left, scores a try against Italy during the Six Nations match in Rome. AFP
France wing Damian Penaud, left, scores a try against Italy during the Six Nations match in Rome. AFP

In the day's first game, France beat Italy 25-14 to finish their disappointing campaign with a second win, condemning the hosts to a 22nd straight defeat in the tournament.

Three tries from Antoine Dupont, Maxime Medard and Damian Penaud and 10 points from youngster Romain Ntamack sealed victory in the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy between the two nations.

Tito Tebaldi replied with a try for Italy on 53 minutes with Tommaso Allan accounting for the remainder of Italy's points as the Azzurri earned a fourth straight wooden spoon for a whitewash.

"I've rarely been through a Six Nations tournament like this, but at least we have ended on a winning note," said France's Mathieu Bastareaud.

The French have just one win against Scotland (27-10) after being thrashed by 44-8 England and losing 26-14 to Ireland last weekend.

It was also disappointing final match at the Stadio Olimpico for Italy captain Sergio Parisse, the holder of a record 69 caps in the tournament.

Updated: March 16, 2019 09:16 PM

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