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Halfpenny boots Wales to victory

Leigh Halfpenny kicked a final-minute penalty to snatch a dramatic late 23-21 victory for Wales over Ireland in their RBS 6 Nations opener at the Aviva Stadium.

A thrilling Test was settled in controversial circumstances after flanker Stephen Ferris was dubiously penalised for a dangerous tackle on Ian Evans, giving Halfpenny his chance.

Try-scorer George North was Wales' star with Jonathan Davies crossing twice, while Rory Best and Tommy Bowe breached the whitewash for Ireland.

Ireland took the lead through a third-minute Sexton penalty, but Wales responded in determined fashion as Bradley Davies and then North were only denied tries by some last-ditch tackling.

Video referee Geoff Warren was called upon after Rhys Priestland's one-handed pass found Jonathan Davies, who touched down in the corner despite a Gordon D'Arcy challenge.

Ireland began to grow into proceedings as the interval approached, piecing together several threatening phases, and they cut Wales open through a well-worked 38th-minute try.

Bowe cropped up on the left flank, drifted outside Alex Cuthbert and then freed Ulster forward Best for his sixth try in 55 Tests, with Jonathan Sexton's angled conversion giving Ireland a 10-5 lead.

Sexton extended Ireland's lead with his second successful penalty, but Wales responded majestically, scoring 10 points in two minutes via a Halfpenny penalty and conversion of Davies' second try.

Halfpenny's accuracy underpinned a superb Welsh recovery highlighted when North set up Davies' sprint for glory after he smashed Ireland's midfield defence asunder and then found his colleague with a one-handed pass but back came Ireland as the lead changed hands for a fourth time inside an hour after Sexton completed his penalty hat-trick to set the scene for an enthralling final quarter.

Wales briefly threatened to unravel when Bradley Davies was in the sin-bin, Bowe scoring Ireland's second try 12 minutes from time, but North then powered over in the 76th minute before Halfpenny's dramatic clincher.


From Belfast Telegraph