IRELAND OPENED THEIR 2013 Six Nations campaign with a solid win over Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Opening up a 30-3 lead, Ireland faced a Welsh comeback early in the second half but that only served to open up the game.
Here are TheScore.ie‘s rating for the Ireland players:
Rob Kearney – 6
The fullback was anonymous for most of the game as an offensive weapon but stood tall when needed on defence. Took odd angles for a number of high Wales’ kicks resulting in a couple of needless knock ons.
Craig Gilroy - 7
Put in a monster hit on defence to prevent Halfpenny and Wales from scoring midway through the second half. Was used quite heavily as a ball carrier in the first half but the nature of the game meant he spent most of the second half on the back foot.
Brian O’Driscoll – 9
A try and an amazing hand off to help Ireland build their 27-point second half lead. If this is to be O’Driscoll’s last Six Nations campaign, he can be proud of the shift he put in on the opening weekend.
Gordon D’Arcy – 6
Went off before Ireland needed to make their second half stand on defence. Hard to rate the Leinster man as he appeared to be playing with a knock for most of the first half.
Simon Zebo – 9
A try in the first half but some suspect defending and decision making in the second. Top marks for providing what will undoubtedly be the stand-out piece of skill from this year’s tournament though.
Jonathan Sexton – 7
Did everything that was asked of him in terms of conversions and penalties. Was part of a solid defence display in the face of non-stop pressure in the second half.
Conor Murray – 6
Played an important role in the first Irish try but his yellow card when Ireland needed to keep 15 men on the pitch warrants a deduction of a point.
Cian Healy – 8
Will forever be known as the player who scored the try on the back of Zebo’s piece of skill. Was part of a scrum that held it’s own for two thirds of the game.
Rory Best – 7
Another needless yellow card though, in fairness to Best, he just happened to be next man up. With O’Brien was responsible for a key defensive stand early in the second half.
Mike Ross – 6
Faded very badly in the second half but may have been carrying a knock from a collapsed scrum early in the first half.
Donnacha Ryan – 7
Gave away a penalty in the run up to Wales’ last try but a decent performance considering it was the first Championship game he and McCarthy have started together.
Mike McCarthy – 6
Perhaps the most anonymous player in a green shirt, McCarthy certainly wasn’t as involved in the lineouts as many would have expected before the game.
Peter O’Mahony - 7
A very good 50 minutes before being replaced by Henry, O’Mahony carried an awful lot of ball in the first half to help establish the commanding Ireland lead.
Sean O’Brien – 8
Another monster shift on the back foot from O’Brien putting in more than 20 tackles. His hit on Halfpenny on a second half carry will certainly leave a bruise on the Welsh player.
Jamie Heaslip (capt) – 8
Will be disappointed to concede 19 second half points but, considering Ireland were down to 14 men for half of it, will be happy to start the campaign with a win.
Keith Earls – 5
Played less than half an hour and was caught cold for the first Wales try after mis-reading Cuthbert’s line.
Chris Henry – 6
Played his role defensively in ensuring an Ireland win but had very little opportunity to use the ball with Ireland on the front foot.
Declan Fitzpatrick – 7
A welcome relief for the Irish pack when Ross eventually hobbled off. Didn’t have much time to make a huge impact though.
Donncha O’Callaghan & Dave Kilcoyne – Not on the field long enough to warrant a rating.