Three key things from Wales v Ireland Six Nations clash


London (AFP)

Wales whipped Ireland 25-7 to clinch the Six Nations Grand Slam on Saturday in Cardiff.

Here AFP Sports picks out three key things from the game that saw Wales coach Warren Gatland finish his final Six Nations campaign as the only man to win three Grand Slams in the history of the Five and Six Nations:

Parkes sets the tone

Hadleigh Parkes may not garner the headlines that others in the Welsh backline do but the 31-year-old New Zealand-born centre deserves to share them if only for his contribution in the opening 10 minutes. He ran on smartly to touch down fellow Kiwi Gareth Anscombe's chip inside with the referee playing penalty advantage. "Chicken (Anscombe's nickname) put it through nicely for me and I had a shot to nothing and took it" Parkes said. He then produced a brilliant try-saving tackle minutes later to deny Irish winger Jacob Stockdale. Had the Ulster man scored then it could have been a very different outcome but those two moments set the tone for the rest of the game, calming any nerves his side may have had and at the same time sewing doubt in Irish minds.

Out of sorts Sexton

Former Irish great Tony Ward had told AFP he did not think world player of the year Johnny Sexton's grumpiness on the pitch helped bolster Irish morale. By the end of the first-half the volcano was threatening to boil over even in the pouring rain. Conceding a penalty Sexton hurled the ball back in frustration, with some choice words sending the ball on its way. The 33-year-old's game has also been out of sorts save against France and two kicks straight into touch in the second-half indicated there would be no way back for him or the Irish.

He was not alone in making basic errors -- CJ Stander's embarrassing free-kick in the first-half perhaps the most risible -- which have not been a feature of the Joe Schmidt era. However, as Ward said Sexton and half-back partner Conor Murray, rated as one of the most feared half-back partnerships in world rugby, set the tone for the rest of the team. Once again their previously symbiotic understanding was missing and their fate was sealed.

Jones sets the Welsh gold standard

Labelled by former Welsh great Jonathan Davies after the Ireland game as perhaps the greatest player to don the Welsh shirt -- some accolade given the names down the years like Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams -- the 33-year-old was immense as captain and player against the Irish. Ever present with the ball in hand or turning it over or indeed in the line-out -- where the Irish thought they would dominate -- he led his men with gusto. Welsh fans held their breath in the early stages when he lay on the pitch having treatment but the sturdy fellow he is shook it off and stayed to the end. Softly-spoken and modest he allows his actions to speak for themselves. "He deserves all the accolades he gets. He is a great person and a great player," said Warren Gatland.