WARREN GATLAND said Ireland lived up to their world number one billing in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff.

The Kiwi’s return ended in disappointment as Andy Farrell’s side blitzed them in the first-half on their way to a 34-10 win.

He reckons their second-half performance offers hope for the future and said Ireland were at their best.

“I thought the second half was a huge improvement,” he said.

“We spoke about putting them under pressure with line speed. I thought that definitely improved. The discipline and soft penalties cost us.

“We created a number of chances but we weren’t clinical enough to finish them. The number of entries for both teams into the ’22 were the same.

“That’s a big work-on for us but there’s a lot of positives out of that performance apart from the scoreboard.

“I felt in that first-half there were a couple of times we could have got over the line and we’ve had an intercept of seven points against us. Potentially it could have been a lot closer.

“In the second-half when we were putting Ireland under pressure at 27-10, if we’d scored then and got it to 27-17 it could have been an interesting couple of minutes.

“They are a very good side, the number one side in the world, and they showed that this afternoon.”

Gatland blamed his team’s poor discipline for their opening half malaise.

“The slow start was brought on ourselves by the fact that we conceded some penalties which gave them the momentum to get into our ’22,” he said.

“We didn’t have a good enough exit to start the game and we were 14 points down and under the pump.

“The penalty count in that first period was seven to one. That gave them the momentum to get the start they wanted and put us under quite a bit of pressure.”

Ireland were the ones who came under more scrutiny from referee Karl Dickson after halt-time and Gatland was disappointed with Andrew Porter’s decision to flop on to Liam Willams after he’d scored his side’s try.

Otherwise, he felt Dickson got most of the big decisions right.

“I’m not sure Andrew Porter needed to do that because he was clearly scoring the try,” he said.

“I thought the tackle on George North, he was tackled off the ball, was potentially a yellow card because it was a good attacking position and he doesn’t have the chance to clear out.

“I’m not sure, there’s a lot worse, they weren’t massive incidents. I’m comfortable with the ref, there have been times with yellow cards that they are given away too freely. Iain got up here, you could argue he could get his body potentially out of the way.

“With Porter, if I was his coach I would give him a kick up backside, he had a great tackle on line to hold up Jac Morgan. He probably needs a reminder that potentially that could have been a costly yellow card in a big game. I’m comfortable with the referee’s decisions.”

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