THE RAIN CAME, but it was late and Ireland already had the hay made, wrapped and stored.
However, there was nothing agricultural about this convincing win over the champions of the past two years.
This was a clinical display, a perfectly enacted plan with the tires coming from Chris Henry and Paddy Jackson at the tail end of each half.
It was not the classic some expected, instead and early cagey exchange of kicks led to Irish dominance.
They had to work hard for it, make no mistake. An early set of phases brought welsh disruption and Sam Wrburton’s tackle rocked Gordon D’Arcy back on his heels.
The performances of Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry and Peter O’Mahony though – a back row working in near perfect harmony – made this highly anticipated contest between into a a predictable outcome.
After spending a week speaking about discipline, Joe Schmidt’s side were as good as their word and it was the 55th minute before Leigh Halfpenny was given the opportunity to kick Wales’ first penalty with the hosts already 16 – 0 to the good.
Once again, the John Plumtree coached maul looked to be Ireland’s most potent weapon, and this week it was Chris Henry who profited from its clinical efforts with the touchdown for his first international try on 33 minutes.
By that stage, Jonathan Sexton had already settled into a kicking rhythm off the tee – though his efforts out of hand left some room for improvement – to put Ireland 6 – 0 up courtesy of breakdown penalties.
Racing Metro’s absent out-half nailed a beautiful conversion to make Henry’s score a maximum one, but his last effort of the half brought his only miss. Along-range penalty attempt on the stroke of half time dropped well short and the hosts took a 13 – 0 advantage into half-time.
The second 40 turned into a procession for Schmidt’s grand plan. His team continued to display exemplary footwork, changing the point of attack to keep the larger Welsh defenders off balance.
A disrupted maul five minutes after the resumption allowed Sexton extend the lead to 16 and he did so again on the hour mark. By that stage, Schmidt already had the luxury of calling Paul O’Connell ashore and unleashing the replacements.
And it was one of that back-up group who put the finishing touch on this victory, cantering to the posts after another maul pulverised the champions.
For Wales, their first away defeat in the Six Nations, for Ireland the next step brings them to Twickenham where a Triple Crown could be sealed.
Nothing like getting the job done early.
Tries: Henry. Jackson
Conv: Sexton, Jackson.
Penalties: Sexton (4)
Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, D Kearney; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, D Toner, P O’Connell (capt.); P O’Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Moore, D Tuohy, T O’Donnell, I Boss, P Jackson, F McFadden.
Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips: G Jenkins, R Hibbard, A Jones; A Coombs, AW Jones; D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt.), T Faletau.
Replacements: K Owens, P James, R Jones, J Ball, J Tipuric, R Webb, J Hook, L Williams.