Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones believes his side have started to answer their critics after getting their 2021 Guinness Six Nations campaign started with a 21-16 victory over Ireland.
Second-half tries from George North and Louis Rees-Zammit earned the hosts the win at Principality Stadium, with Ireland playing the majority of the match with 14-men after Peter O’Mahony’s early red card.
But even a man light, Ireland led at half-time thanks to Tadhg Beirne’s score, before Wayne Pivac’s side fought back to claim the win.
SECOND-HALF COMEBACK SEES WALES EDGE IRELAND IN CARDIFF
And Jones was proud of his side’s effort to hold off Ireland at the death, as well as they way they bounced back after securing just two wins from their final nine matches of 2020.
“If you’re fortunate enough to pull this (Wales shirt) on, there’s always pressure. There was particular pressure after the autumn we had and I won’t shy away from that,” the Wales skipper said.
“The game told a story about coming under pressure when you’re a man to the good but we came through it thankfully.”
The visitors were up against it early on in Cardiff, with O’Mahony shown a red card by referee Wayne Barnes within the opening 15 minutes after an unsafe ruck clear out.
But the 14 men gave as good as they got through the first half, with Leigh Halfpenny and Johnny Sexton exchanging two penalties apiece, before Beirne bundled over to give the visitors the advantage.
Robbie Henshaw set the move up with a brilliant break through the centre of the Welsh defence, before the Munster forward finished the job to see Andy Farrell’s side lead 13-6 at the break.
But Wales came out fighting, with North giving the Irish defence the eyes before sidling over to get the hosts within two points after Halfpenny’s missed conversion.
Then Rees-Zammit added to his burgeoning reputation with another superb finish, as the 20-year-old’s acrobat dot down put Pivac’s side back in the ascendency.
Halfpenny and Billy Burns added extra three-pointers, before a nerve-wracking ending saw Ireland pile the pressure on their opponents, but ultimately fail to find the breakthrough.
And after having to fight back from a half-time deficit, Jones was pleased with the way his side broke down the visitors’ defence with two moments of magic.
“It (having a man sent off) can sometimes galvanise a team and credit to Ireland, we knew what they were going to bring. That probably galvanised them in that middle part of the game,” Jones said.
“George’s [North’s try] was the opportune one and we are happy with the construction of Zammo’s [Louis Rees-Zammit’s] one.
“We’d like to think we could have finished a few more off from the possession we had but we’ve got our foot in the door at the start of the competition.