Wales trounced Ireland 25-7 at a raucous Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, to win the 2019 Six Nations tournament and their 12th Grand Slam – their fourth since the tournament was expanded in 2000 and third under coach Warren Gatland – both records.
Going into the final round of fixtures, three teams had a chance of winning the Six Nations – Wales had beaten all before them and lead the way with a perfect 4-0 record, but hot on their tails were Ireland, who were at 3-1 having lost their opening encounter with England – and the English themselves, who had lost a close, bruising encounter with Wales in round 3 21-13 in Cardiff. But such was the margin of victories for England against France and Italy that they still harboured hopes of a Six Nations victory, with the bonus points available, and the same message was sent to the Irish who could also win it with a victory in their last game with Wales, coupled with a non English win, who faced up to old enemy Scotland at Twickenham for their final game.
The Welsh knew that a fast start would be imperative to take any wind out of the Irish sails – and they certainly achieved that, with the quickest try they ever recorded against Ireland – Hadleigh Parkes (above) crashing over the line in just the second minute of the game (70 seconds to be exact) to send the Welsh fans into rapture. Gareth Anscombe booted the conversion and made it 7-0. By half time, and after heavy Welsh pressure, the lead had extended to 16-0, with Anscombe imperious with his kicking duties.
Ireland needed a fast start to the second half to have any chance of mounting a fight back – but it was the Welsh who put more points on the board. Ireland’s Cian Healy penalised in the 49th minute and once again it was Anscombe (above) who made no mistake to make it 19-0. Anscombe would finish the match with 6 penalties from 6 – and by the time the Irish finally crossed the Welsh line, it was mere consolation – with Wales triumphing 25-7 at the last to claim the Grand Slam and win the 2019 Six Nations – irrespective of what happened at Twickenham were, as it happened, England could only manage a draw with Scotland – the 38-38 scoreline highly entertaining, but ultimately disappointing for the English.
The win for the Welsh was a superb way for Warren Gatland to bow out as Head Coach of Wales. He, along with Irish counterpart Joe Schmidt, had announced that this game would be the last in charge. He finished leading the Dragons to four Six Nations titles, and as runners up twice more in his 11 campaigns. He leaves the Wales role on the highest of highs, and in great shape for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup.
2019 SIX NATIONS FINAL TABLE
- WALES – P5 W5 D0 L0 F114 A65 PTS 23
- ENGLAND P5 W3 D1 L1 F184 A101 PTS 18
- IRELAND P5 W3 D0 L2 F101 A100 PTS 14
- FRANCE P5 W2 D0 L3 F93 A118 PTS 10
- SCOTLAND P5 W1 D1 L3 F105 A125 PTS 9
- ITALY P5 W0 D0 L5 F79 L167 PTS 0