The player ratings as Ireland’s title chase ran out of steam

WALES CAME OUT on top of a gruelling encounter with Ireland. Here’s how we rated Joe Schmidt’s side after an intense Friday night fight.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Rob Kearney: 4

At times he threatened to get back to his best in aerial battles, but his tackling and counter-attacking efforts were sorely lacking.

Keith Earls: 7 

Ireland’s best performer, it was just a shame he couldn’t influence the game more. Never stood a chance stopping North at full steam from close range in the first-half. Delivered some clever contributions with ball in hand and his work ethic was utterly relentless.

Garry Ringrose: 5 

Another tough away day for the young centre. Looked to be among the first needing a second wind after the frenetic opening period and, bar a clever grubber chase, struggled to make his presence felt.

Robbie Henshaw: 6

Committed a howler of a penalty at the maul as Ireland looked poise to rumble over in the second half, but overall was one of Ireland’s better performers with and without the ball.

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Simon Zebo: 6

Kept the effort up through the contest and was always available to threaten, but the suffocating feeling around Cardiff was too much of a restraint.

Johnny Sexton: 6

Started like a dream, but the errors in the game soon put him in harm’s way. As the play-caller, he was unable to build any rhythm for his team and the Wales defence read his loop plays too easily.

Kieran Marmion: 6

Delivered a much-need injection of energy to the game when he was belatedly introduced to replace Conor Murray, who was allowed linger on the field for far too long while visibly hampered by his injury.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jack McGrath: 5

We hoped his early strip of Alun Wyn Jones would set a winning tone, but Ireland’s momentum soon fizzled out. The loosehead was one of the first called ashore as Schmidt looked to Cian Healy for a carrying threat.

Rory Best: 5

The skipper welcomed a closed roof because it would mean decent conditions for line-out throwing, but the greasy environment brought errors at crucial stages. A solid shift, but far too many errors – sort of summed up his whole team.

Tadhg Furlong: 7

Never really got the scrum dominance he enjoyed in the earlier rounds, but was busy and effective around the park. Made his hits and lent his weight to some serious clean-outs.

Donnacha Ryan: 6

A night of Trojan work from Ryan, and was even left on to complete the 80. Made one of the rare breaks from a forward when he took on George North second half.

Devin Toner: 5

A rare early end to the big man’s game. Stuggled more than most with the sticky conditions and, together with Best, carries the can for the line-out malfunctions.

Say goodbye to this baby. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CJ Stander: 6

The star of Ireland’s first-half, bullocking down the left flank and boshing Leigh Halfpenny over like a domino. Ever-available for carrying work, never more so than when Conor Murray was working with one arm, but called to the line early as Peter O’Mahony was needed.

Sean O’Brien: 6

Barring Wales’ excellent by-passing of him for the opening try, O’Brien defended very well in the tackle and kept looking for potential advantages at the breakdown. Far from perfect, and he had one shocking pass,  but Ireland would have been in serious trouble without him around.

Jamie Heaslip: 5

The ferocious red defence highlighted one of the few weaknesses in his game as they hit the number eight behind the gainline and forced him to cough up yardage. Was unable to make an impact at the breakdown.

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