The Ireland head coach watched on as his side allowed Leigh Halfpenny to build up scoreboard pressure before a resilient Welsh defence snuffed out almost everything that his green machine could muster at the Millennium Stadium.
It is not a case of going back to the drawing board. The result would have been different had we taken a few opportunities.
Joe Schmidt on Ireland’s 23-16 defeat to Wales
Halfpenny and Ireland outside-half Johnny Sexton traded penalties in the first half with Dan Biggar adding a drop-goal to give Wales a 15-9 lead at the break.
After Wales survived 45 phases of Irish onslaught in their 22, Scarlets centre Scott Williams had been on the field a matter of minutes before scoring Wales’ only try as he ghosting through the Ireland defence after Jonathan Davies had led a charge upfield.
Ireland responded with a 69th-minute penalty try, but it wasn’t enough as Wales held on to make it four wins on the bounce.
“The strategy was the same as it has been for the last few weeks,” Schmidt said.
“I think if you start to throw the baby out with the bathwater, it’s pretty hard to start all over again.
“I think there is concern. We went out with a plan in the second half expecting to accumulate points if we played and won a number of penalties.
“But the penalties didn’t come in the second half, so we didn’t achieve anything with that strategy, apart from some really good play.
“We lost the first four balls in the air and found ourselves chasing the game.
“We were victims of some stringent refereeing at the breakdown after Wales started strongly in terms of possession and territory, but when we did the same at the beginning of the second half, [referee Wayne Barnes] did not quite respond like that.
“It is not a case of going back to the drawing board. The result would have been different had we taken a few opportunities.
“We did a lot of good things and we could have had a draw at the end.
“It makes it tough for us, but we are still in there.”
The 23-16 defeat was Ireland’s first in their last 11 matches and sees them slip to second in the table on points difference to England, with Stuart Lancaster’s men on +37 to Ireland’s +33, while Wales move to +12 and still have an outside chance of winning the title.
The Six Nations is ending in the same way as last year…we are disappointed it has come to this, but we were beaten by a good Wales team in a game where we did not help ourselves.
Joe Schmidt on Ireland’s Six Nations title defence
It means Ireland must defeat Scotland by a comfortable margin at BT Murrayfield, before England take to the field against France at Twickenham if they are to retain their title.
But Schmidt refused to get caught up in a numbers game ahead of “Super Saturday” as they face a Scotland side with nothing to lose having lost their first four matches in the championship.
“This is not a tournament where you can think about how many points you are going to beat an opponent by,” Schmidt added.
“Scotland are a good side who only lost to Wales, a team that have just beaten us, after a few decisions went against them.
“The Six Nations is ending in the same way as last year when we played France in Paris knowing that we needed to win.
“We are disappointed it has come to this, but we were beaten by a good Wales team in a game where we did not help ourselves.”
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