It is hard to tell quite which nation would have been more delighted by the Welsh beating Ireland 23-16 in Cardiff on Saturday, as England saw their Six Nations hopes once again become a real possibility, while the Welsh kept their (albeit slim) chances alive as well. England's abject defeat to the men from the Emerald Isle in the previous set of fixtures, had left Stuart Lancaster's men looking to the Welsh to do them a favour to keep their dreams of taking the title still a possibility, and the men from the valleys did not let them down. Welsh success and England's stuttering victory over the Scots 25-13, keeps the destination of the Six Nations title in the balance as they head into the final set of matches, with three teams still vying for the big prize..
Despite defeating the English at the Aviva Stadium, the Irish would have been wary of their next challenge, taking on the Welsh on their home soil. They were right to be concerned, as Wales played with their hearts and defended their line as though their lives depended upon it, with a far more complete performance than their reversal to England earlier in the tournament. Captain Sam Warburton was immense in being named the man of the match, despite a period in the sin-bin just before half-time, which could have tipped the game the way of the visitors.
The first-half of the Wales-Ireland game became a kicking extravaganza, with Johnny Sexton for once not having the best of days at the Millennium Stadium, yet still claiming three penalties to Wales' four from Leigh Halfpenny, plus a drop goal for Dan Biggar. That left the game still in the balance at 15-9 at the break.
Irish pressure was repelled heroically by the home side after the interval, who rallied and must have thought that the game was safe when Scott Williams went over for an unconverted try to put them 20-9 ahead.
Ireland are not a side that give up and they were rewarded for their efforts with a penalty try, when the Welsh brought a rolling maul down illegally, the conversion of which left the game delicately poised at 20-16 entering the final stages. Halfpenny extended the advantage to 23-16 with another penalty and they held on for their win, ending Ireland's winning streak at ten internationals. #RugbyDefeat to the Welsh ends the chances of any nation claiming the Grand Slam this year, which is perhaps fitting giving that on balance there has not been one truly dominant side this campaign. Ireland had looked the most likely, but they, like England before them in Dublin, could not maintain that dominance against the Welsh in Cardiff. Wales looked certain to beat the English in their opening day encounter, before losing their way as the Red Rose nation applied the pressure. England have shown glimpses of brilliance throughout, but also, as they did yesterday all too frequently, many spells of inconsistency.
So, we come down to the final fixtures, with England, Ireland and Wales all still in with a chance of the title. Game on!