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Ireland stun defending champions Wales

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Sportal.co.nz     08 Feb 2014     Getty Images

In a match given extra spice by Wales coach Warren Gatland's decision to drop Ireland icon Brian O'Driscoll for last year's decisive third Test between the British and Irish Lions and Australia, the hosts delivered a tactical masterclass.

The kicking game of Jonny Sexton proved key as Ireland seized control with 13 unanswered points in the first half, Chris Henry crossing for his first international try.

Wales were unable to respond as their hopes of becoming the first team to win three successive Six Nations titles were severely dented, and a late converted try from replacement Paddy Jackson rounded off a fine Ireland display.

Sexton landed two penalties inside the first 17 minutes as Ireland, 28-6 winners over Scotland last weekend, started the brighter.

Wales, who welcomed skipper Sam Warburton back to their starting line-up, were not helped when Scott Williams was injured making a tackle, forcing the centre to be replaced by namesake Liam Williams.

Indiscipline remained a problem for the visitors, who conceded penalties all too frequently as the first half progressed.

Ireland pulled further clear when a fine kick from Sexton set up a lineout deep inside Welsh territory, from which Henry was driven over.

A long-range penalty attempt from Sexton came up short on the stroke of half-time, but the fly-half was successful six minutes after the break.

Wales eventually got on the scoreboard in the 56th minute through Leigh Halfpenny, only for Sexton to restore his side's 16-point advantage with a fifth successful kick.

Ireland's defence remained resolute heading into the closing stages and a delighted crowd were given further reason to celebrate when Jackson capitalised on another superb maul to grab the second try of the game.