Six Nations

Schmidt a mix of emotions after thrilling Irish win

Joe Schmidt (Getty)
Joe Schmidt (Getty)

Dublin - Joe Schmidt endured mixed emotions after Ireland's pulsating 37-27 victory over Wales kept their hopes of the Six Nations Grand Slam alive on Saturday at Lansdowne Road.

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Schmidt was delighted the Irish picked up a bonus point for running in five tries but was also frustrated at some sloppy defence which allowed the Welsh to stay in the game.

In the end, though, the visitors were unable to provide Warren Gatland with a win on his 100th Test in charge.

It was doubly jarring for the New Zealander who is still bitter at the manner in which he was not retained as Ireland's head coach in 2001.

Schmidt, who has guided the Irish to two Six Nations championships (2014/15) but never the Grand Slam, said it was a cause for concern that they had not killed off the game having turned it round from trailing 13-5 to lead 27-13 in the second-half.

"The most frustrating thing was at 27-13 that we didn't keep that margin or grow it and they worked their way back into the game," said Schmidt.

"With some defending we should do better and we will do better."

Schmidt refused to criticise star flyhalf Johnny Sexton over a decision he took in the second-half in spurning the possibility of extending the lead to 30-20 - after the Welsh had got back within a converted try of levelling - by running a penalty rather than go for goal.

The end result was the Welsh repelled the attack.

"I back him 100 percent," said Schmidt. "He felt we could score and we couldn't have gone closer to doing so.

"In retrospect he might have kicked the goal to gain the 10-point margin like Conor (Murray who went for goal a bit later to make it 30-20) but it was something he had said at half-time that the Welsh were turning their backs at penalties.

"That is what I love about Johnny - he is always willing to try things."

Schmidt said he was delighted to have scored 13 tries in the past two matches but again he said there was a downside.

"It was frustrating against Italy and today in conceding tries," said the 52-year-old New Zealander.

"But a lot of positives too with eight tries (against Italy) and five tries today. We are keeping ourselves from losses but we have to do better than conceding three tries in both matches."

Gatland said his side, who had beaten Scotland and then lost somewhat controversially to England, had failed to execute the strategy he had laid out.

However, the 54-year-old Kiwi couldn't resist going into tongue-in-cheek mode when asked had Ireland progressed as he has been one of their strongest critics claiming they lacked attacking verve.

"I thought they were outstanding," sad Gatland. "So I apologise to Joe if I upset him a couple of years ago, if I was critical of the way they played.

"I thought they moved the ball brilliantly well, and they were so exciting the way they played today."

Schmidt, a potential rival of Gatland for the post of New Zealand head coach after the 2019 World Cup, replied: "Gatts and I have been sparring partners for years."

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