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Ireland restores some mojo after edging Wales in RWC warmup

August 31, 2019
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Ireland's Andrew Conway in action during the international match against Wales at The Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Saturday Aug. 31, 2019. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
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Ireland's Andrew Conway in action during the international match against Wales at The Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Saturday Aug. 31, 2019. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Ireland restored some pride by beating Wales 22-17 in a scrappy Rugby World Cup warmup between second-string sides on Saturday.

The Irish were in desperation mode after enduring a 57-15 thrashing from England last weekend at Twickenham and responded by pulling ahead 22-3 in Cardiff thanks to a penalty try off their dominant scrum nearly an hour in.

Wales then began its own comeback, after prop Leon Brown came out of the sin-bin, with tries to wing Owen Lane on debut and replacement flyhalf Rhys Patchell, who converted both and engineered the fightback.

But time ran out for Wales, costing it an 11-test win streak at home — its longest since 1912 — and the No. 1 test ranking, which was restored to world champion New Zealand.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt made 11 changes, and flyhalf Jack Carty starred with his vision and distribution. His offload to bursting wing Andrew Conway set up Jacob Stockdale’s first try, and Stockdale scored the second from a dropped Welsh offload.

Ireland’s set-pieces were also reliable, earning six penalties from scrums, and losing only one throw-in after losing six against England.

″(Winning) was massive for us,” Carty said. “We were all hurting during the week but we came together. It wasn’t perfect at times but our defense was good.”

After a pushover attempt was rewarded with a penalty try by referee Romain Poite, Ireland led by 22-3. If the margin had held, Ireland would have strangely become No. 1 for the first time, a week after a thrashing from England. World Rugby vice chairman Agustin Pichot was prompted in midweek to call Wales’ rise to No. 1 “ridiculous.” Wales dampened the debate about the rankings by reducing the margin and preventing Ireland’s rise.

Wales coach Warren Gatland made 14 changes to the side which beat England 13-6 in Cardiff two weeks ago to earn the No. 1 ranking for the first time. Gatland debuted Lane and prop Rhys Carre. More importantly, he auditioned Jarrod Evans and Patchell to be the backup flyhalf in the World Cup squad he will announce on Sunday. Patchell seemed to edge it, as he and scrumhalf Tomos Williams sharpened the attack to rouse the home crowd.

The teams meet again next weekend in Dublin.

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