Six Nations Rugby | Five Classics: Wales v Ireland
A rivalry dating back centuries, these two sides first played each other in January 1882, when Wales came away from Lansdowne Road with a now unconventional 2-0 win.
This time, of course, Cardiff and the Principality Stadium play host, with Warren Gatland back in charge and hoping to upset the world number one.
There has been no shortage of drama and excitement over the years, with championships decided, legacies cemented and hearts broken on numerous occasions.
Here we pick five of the best Wales-Ireland matches in Guinness Six Nations history.
ROG’s Forgotten Strike – Wales 24-25 Ireland (2003)
Think of Ronan O’Gara and a famous drop goal in Wales and one immediately springs to mind – more on that later – but the man was already in form when 2009 rolled around.
A frenzied game of rugby played in a bubbling cauldron of Welsh support saw body blows delivered by both sides in what became a slugfest for the ages.
Scores from Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Gareth Thomas, with Keith Gleeson grabbing a couple for Ireland, set up a grandstand final, made all the more dramatic when Jones scored from distance to beat Wales giving them their first taste of the lead since the first half.
But more was to come as a 26-year-old O’Gara let loose with his own effort, set up from nowhere and split the goals from the center just 30 seconds later, keeping Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes alive. pulled off a 25-24 triumph.
Jones ends the wait – Wales 32-20 Ireland (2005)
Given their dominance back in the 70s, it would have taken a brave soul to predict that Wales would have to wait 27 years for another Grand Slam after their 1978 triumph.
But a barren patch, as the team struggled to cope with the loss of several key individuals, left Welsh fans morbidly pessimistic by the time round five of the 2005 Championship arrived.
Mike Ruddock’s men had won four from four in scrappy style to that point, brushing aside Scotland, France, Italy and England, but a visit from Ireland awaited them in the final games.
However, any nerves were quickly quelled by a first-half blitz that saw Gethin Jenkins’ try help them take a 16-6 lead at the break.
And they created further breathing room when Kevin Morgan crossed to put them 29-6 ahead, but it was not to be taken for granted in their bid to return to the top table.
Marcus Horan and Geordan Murphy responded for Ireland, sparking a nervy finish, but Wales did enough to keep their opponents at bay, and the stadium erupted as the full-time whistle blew, their side glorious once again.
O’Gara for the Grand Slam – Wales 15-17 Ireland (2009)
Arguably one of the most enduring images of Rugby’s Greatest Championship, Ronan O’Gara’s second appearance on this list is the kick for which he is most famous.
Heading into the 2009 championship, Ireland had waited 61 years for a Grand Slam, their last returning in 1948 – the early days of the Five Nations.
But they went to Cardiff in the fifth round with just a win needed to end that agonizing wait, and it was a tight affair as tries from Brian O’Driscoll and Tommy Bowe gave them the lead with time running out was expired.
Ireland v Wales matches rarely disappoint!
🏉 Wales Grand Slam 2019
🏉 Ireland Grand Slam 2009
Who do you think will win in Dublin?#IREvWAL | #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/cdtngOFXk8
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 6, 2020
However, as fans know, history has a strange way of repeating itself when it comes to Rugby’s Biggest Championship, and it was poor Stephen Jones who once again thought his drop goal had given Wales victory.
However, O’Gara stepped up, in the immortal words of commentator Ryle Nugent: “Drop by goal; Grand Slam at stake.”
And, with the weight of a nation on his shoulders, the flyhalf once again delivered, not just on the kick, but on a historic championship.
Glory in defeat – Wales 22-30 Ireland (2013) & Wales 23-16 Ireland (2015)
The 2013 and 2015 championships provided another strange quirk in the championship as each side claimed a title while losing to the other in the process.
In 2013 it was Wales’ turn to lift the trophy for the second time in as many years, but they got their defense off to the worst possible start as Ireland ran out 30-22 winners in Cardiff thanks to 15 points from Johnny Sexton.
However, a perfect set of scores from their next four games saw them toast another championship as they edged out England for glory.
And it was a feat that was repeated two years later, this time Ireland suffered a 23-16 defeat to their rivals before dusting themselves off again to beat Scotland the following week and pip England for glory.
Gatland’s record-breaking Guinness Six Nations farewell – Wales 25-7 Ireland (2019)
Another title decider came in 2019 with both Gatland and Joe Schmidt waving goodbye to rugby’s biggest championship – at least temporarily – having already announced their retirements after the 2019 World Cup.
What happened was arguably Gatland’s greatest achievement in his first game as the Welsh recorded their biggest win since 1976 over their rivals, the previous year’s Grand Slam champions.
Player of the Match Gareth Anscombe was perfect from the kick-off to six penalties and a conversion for Hadleigh Parkes’ opening try after just 70 seconds.
Parkes’ try-saving tackle on Jacob Stockdale minutes later typified an extremely determined defense that was not broken until Jordan Lamour ran in a consolation on the final play of the game.
The result marked a fourth Grand Slam in the Six Nations era for Wales, a record equaled by France in 2022.
Meanwhile, it was a history-making third for Gatland… and counting.