Sean McMahon reporting from the Aviva Stadium.
For the second week in a row, Johnny Sexton led his Ireland side to victory with a 24-14 bonus-point win over Wales in Dublin on Saturday afternoon.
It was a much-improved performance from Ireland in comparison to last weekend’s drab victory over a stubborn Scotland side.
Significantly, Ireland were a lot more dangerous with ball in hand as they passed the ball with an increased level of speed and precision. They continuously got over the gainline while their aggression and physicality at the breakdown was at more of an acceptable level compared to the showing against Gregor Townsend’s men.
Conor Murray, who has been the subject of much debate with regards to his place in the team, also put in an improved showing as his crisp passing and accurate box-kicking came to the fore once again.
Sexton, who was speaking alongside head coach Andy Farrell during the post-match press conference, explained why he thought Murray had an “outstanding” performance and why his box-kicking was the reason Ireland won the game.
“Outstanding,” Sexton said. “Outstanding.”
“He was brilliant all day. His sort of little snipe off the maul in the second half and the offload out the back of Bundee [Aki] to me, was top-class. That gave us the field position into the corner which built a lot of pressure on them from there.
“Yeah, his box-kicking, which is…sometimes when you do something so well, then suddenly everyone gets sick of it and they start giving out about it. But it won us the game, the few box kicks that he did in the second half that created pressure on them were outstanding and in such tough conditions. I’m delighted for him, absolutely delighted for him.”
Head coach Andy Farrell was also in a mood to dish out praise and this came the way of CJ Stander who produced a second man-of-the-match performance in as many games.
“He was harshly done by I thought on one or two [turnover attempts]. He was awesome. He’s a guy that’s come in for a little bit of stick as well and two man-of-the-match performances says it all about the guy. I’ve never seen a standing ovation for a yellow card before but he deserved it.”