Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted he had no excuses after watching Ireland maul the two-time defending Six Nations champions at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The visitors suffered their worst tournament defeat since 2006 and took 56 minutes to score, with only Leigh Halfpenny’s saving them from a humiliating whitewash in a comprehensive 26-3 loss.
Defeat dealt a huge, but not fatal, blow to Wales’ hopes of becoming the first side to win three successive outright Six Nations titles.
Ireland’s tactics “surprised” Gatland, the New Zealand-born coach said, but ill discipline and a lack of effectiveness at the breakdown also cost Wales dearly.
“We were well beaten by a better team today, there’s no excuses, it was a very disappointing display from us,” said Gatland, a former Ireland coach. “We have to show some character to bounce back for the next game against France.”
Gatland had dominated much of the build-up to the game, following his decision to drop Brian O’Driscoll in the final British and Irish Lions test last year but, as expected, that had little or no impact on the on-field action.
Instead, it was Joe Schmidt’s tactics — based on predictions of bad weather that ultimately did not arrive — that was the key talking point post-match.
“They possibly surprised us and it was effective,” Gatland said, alluding to the Ireland coach’s usual fondness for open, attacking play.
“I can’t remember any occasion when they moved the ball through the backline to open us up. They kicked the leather off it, there was a lot of one-pass rugby out there, but they also dominated up front, so we have to take that on the chin,” the Scotland boos said.
Sexton punished Wales’ indiscipline in the opening 20 minutes, kicking two penalties and then causing mayhem in defense with one of many tactical kicks deep into Welsh territory.
Chris Henry’s first Irish try arrived following a planned lineout maul and Sexton’s penalties kept the scoreboard ticking over until Paddy Jackson added a second try in the dying minutes.
All eyes now turn to Twickenham, where Ireland take on England in two weeks
England coach Stuart Lancaster warned that England need to improve when they face Ireland on Feb. 22, even after watching his side revive their championship title hopes with a dominant 20-0 Calcutta Cup win away to Scotland on Saturday.
The 132nd edition of rugby union’s oldest international fixture was also one of the most lopsided, with a desperately dire Scotland failing to score a point against England for the first time since 1978.
Yet although England scored tries in Edinburgh through center Luther Burrell and full-back Mike Brown, they also botched a few potential scores in a second half where they managed just seven points.
England outside-half Owen Farrell also missed three penalties on an awkward day for goal-kickers, with Murrayfield’s already parasite-infested pitch made worse by driving rain.
“We were pleased with a lot of aspects, but are frustrated that we didn’t convert more of our opportunities because we dominated the second half,” Lancaster said.
Burrell’s try was his second in as many Tests after his debut effort in England’s 26-24 loss away to France in Paris and Lancaster was pleased by his evolving midfield partnership with Billy Twelvetrees.
However, England’s resounding win at the Calcutta Cup match was marred by tragedy after a fan died on Saturday after falling ill at Murrayfield, Scottish authorities said.