Mack Hansen makes instant impact as Ireland aim for Total Farrell

date_range 06-Feb-2022
visibility 19

The trip to Paris already feels like the potential crux of this tournament, which feels like a faintly ridiculous statement to make after 80 minutes of play. But for Ireland and their long-agonising supporters, it may just be time to start believing the hype. It was a measure of Ireland’s dominance that a normally edgy crowd had begun to relax well before the end.

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Ten minutes from time the Mexican waves were already swooping around the stadium and a little air had drained from the place.

At which point, as if to chide Ireland for their contentment, Taine Basham promptly pilfered a late try after a rare moment of slackness from Tadhg Beirne. Still, the magnificent Beirne had more than earned his little late siesta, and in a way so had Ireland.

Certainly you might argue that the scoreline flattered the losers, not the victors. Ireland could have put the game to bed within 20 minutes, but even without the points their supremacy deserved, the way they made Wales suffer during that opening quarter would tell later on.

It was a great day for Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose at centre, for Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong in the front row, for Andrew Conway and his two tries, for Jack Conan who won a crucial breakdown penalty late in the first half just as Wales were threatening to strike back.

Indeed, pretty much the only Irishman who was not enjoying himself was Rob Baloucoune: left out in favour of Mack Hansen, and now forced to watch the debutant rip up the defending Six Nations champions.

Doubtless the talented Baloucoune will get a chance to add to his two Ireland caps before long. But here it was Hansen who seized his chance and seized the moment, earning the man-of-the-match award (probably out of sentiment as much as anything else) and almost certainly an extended run in the side. He made 94 metres, more than anyone else, two clean breaks and the sumptuous assist for Aki’s early try.