Ireland just had the better of Wales in an absorbing encounter in Cardiff that could have gone either way.
After two disappointing performances, Wales rose to the occasion in Dublin with a performance as good as their opener in Italy. There was nothing to choose between the two teams, with the game in the end being decided by Ireland seizing their one real opportunity at the end of the first half.
The opening period was tight, absorbing 40 minutes that saw few scoring opportunities with solid defences dominating on both sides. Wales dominated possession in the opening quarter, but aside from an impressive maul early on that took them from the Irish 22 to near the 5m line, rarely threatened to put points on the board. When Ireland finally got their hands on the ball they seemed the more enterprising, throwing the ball around more, but a combination of effective Welsh defence and Irish errors meant that the scoreboard was still blank as halftime approached.
The, with three minutes to go, an Irish lineout inside the Welsh 22 was finally effective, with a maul from which Lindsay Peat saw the gap. A great conversion from Nora Stapleton put Ireland 7-0 in at halftime.
However, Lindsay Peat attracted attention soon after the restart, getting a yellow card for infringing at the ruck – after repeated warnings from referee Claire Hodnett in the first half - and Wales took quick advantage, Shona Powell-Hughes driving over. Robyn Wilkins converted to tie the scores.
No sooner were the teams back to full strength than it was Wales who attracted the ire of the referee, Amy Evans seeing yellow after a high tackle. This was the signal for a period of huge Irish pressure, but balanced with heroic Welsh defence. Three times Ireland crossed the line, three times they were held up before the ball was worked wide to Hannah Tyrell who scored in the corner. 12-7 to Ireland, 63 minutes gone.
With the teams back to 15-a-side there was again nothing to choose between them. Both defences now ended the game as solid as they started it. Ireland now had most of the possession, and amidst massive tension among the impressive Arms Park crowd, time ran out for Wales. At the final whistle it the prize went to Ireland, setting up a winner-takes-all climax in Dublin next weekend.
And finally a word for referee Claire Hodnett, who had a great game. Her clear and decisive calls contributed to an excellent match.
Wales: 15 Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets); 14 Elen Evans (Scarlets); 13 Kerin Lake (Ospreys); 12 Rebecca de Filippo (Newport Gwent Dragons); 11 Adi Taviner (Ospreys); 10 Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys); 9 Keira Bevan (Ospreys); 1 Caryl Thomas (Scarlets); 2 Carys Phillips (c) (Ospreys); 3 Amy Evans (Ospreys); 4 Rebecca Rowe (Newport Gwent Dragons); 5 Mel Clay (Ospreys); 6 Sioned Harries (Scarlets); 7 Rachel Taylor (Scarlets); 8 Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys)
Replacements: 16 Lowri Harries (Scarlets); 17 Cerys Hale (Newport Gwent Dragons); 18 Gwenllian Pyrs (Scarlets); 19 Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys); 20 Alisha Butchers (Scarlets); 21 Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues); 22 Elinor Snowsill (Newport Gwent Dragons); 23 Gemma Rowland (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Ireland: 15. Kim Flood (Railway Union / Leinster); 14. Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere / Leinster); 13. Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere / Leinster); 12. Sene Naoupu (Aylesford Bulls); 11. Alison Miller (Old Belvedere / Connacht); 10. Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere / Leinster); 9. Mary Healy (Galwegians / Connacht); 1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union / Leinster); 2. Leah Lyons (Highfield / Munster); 3. Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere / Leinster); 4. Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere / Leinster); 5. Marie-Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere / Leinster); 6. Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians / Munster); 7. Claire Molloy (Bristol / Connacht); 8. Paula Fitzpatrick (c) (St. Mary's College / Leinster)
Replacements: 16. Ciara O Connor (Galwegians / Connacht); 17. Ilse Van Staden (Cooke / Ulster); 18. Ruth O'Reilly (Galwegians / Connacht); 19. Ciara Cooney (Railway Union / Leinster); 20. Nichola Fryday (Tullamore / Connacht); 21. Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union); 22. Nikki Caughey (Railway Union / Ulster); 23. Mairead Coyne (Galwegians / Connacht)