Two tries from Keith Earls and one from Tomas O’Leary helped Ireland defeat Wales 27-12 in their Six Nations game at Croke Park on Saturday to keep the Irish Triple Crown dream very much alive.
With Brian O'Driscoll making his 100th appearance for Ireland, the atmosphere at Croke Park was electric as the crowd willed on the Irish team to give their captain a win.
Stephen Jones opened the scoring with a penalty in the third minute after Sexton missed a very makeable kick, but the Leinster outhalf redeemed himself with two penalties to give Ireland a 6-3 lead.
Gordon D'Arcy had to go off with a suspected knee injury in the 20th minute, leaving the field in some discomfort with Rob Kearney coming into the game.
Lee Byrne was sin binned in the 24th minute for stopping Tomas O'Leary taking a quick penalty and Ireland took full advantage with Keith Earls and O’Leary scoring tries in his absence.
Sexton, who kicked erratically all day, missed both conversions. When Byrne came back into the game Wales surged forward to the Irish line and won a penalty, which Jones converted to leave the score 16-6 at the half.
The visitors started the second half aggressively but Ireland weathered the storm with some great defense. Lee Byrne gifted Ireland three points shortly after when he threw the ball into the crowd, giving Ireland a penalty that Sexton duly converted to make it 19-6.
Jones replied with a penalty of his won a few minutes later to close the gap to 19-9.
In the 59th minute a brilliant move from the Irish saw Keith Earls take a brilliant pass from man of the match Tomas O’Leary (pictured above) to get in the corner for his second try of the game.
Sexton missed the conversion again, but the Irish were now 24-9 to the good.
Jones replied one more time with a penalty, but Ireland were still 12 points to the good.
In the 75th minute, another good Irish attack set up Jonathan Sexton for a drop goal to put the game beyond the Welsh and set up a Triple Crown winning opportunity for the Irish next week when they take on Scotland.