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Draw 'hard to take' but Ireland and Wales set Six Nations standard

Given how much effort had been put into 80 minutes of bruising, at times brutal Test match rugby at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon it was perhaps no surprise that players from both camps thought that they had done enough to win the game.

"Disappointment" was the watchword as the combatants who had given so much during Ireland's 16-16 draw with Wales filed into a cold Dublin evening.

Those in green were openly wondering how they had contrived to turn a 13-0 lead -- built inside 30 minutes -- into a 16-13 deficit with eight minutes left.

And, their visitors were equally deflated having seized the momentum in the final 10 minutes of the first half only to fail to see the game out.

Replacement fly-half Rhys Priestland's late penalty had put them in touching distance of victory, yet 116 seconds later the scores were level.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win that game," try-scoring Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau said. "A draw is hard to take."

Faletau struggled to put into words the exact emotions that he felt following a game in which the players were battered more by each other than the anticipated wind.

The Bath-bound back-row put in a mammoth 21 tackles to halt the Irish, as did teammate Jamie Roberts, who joked that he felt like an auxiliary second-row in Dublin.

"Is it fair to call it a draw? I'm not quite sure," Roberts said. "Ireland have certainly come out of the blocks quicker than us, played far better than us in the opening 20.

"We've done very well to come back into it, and on 76 minutes we've got the game won. We've exited poorly and ultimately that's gifted them three points.

"[If] that ball ends up in the Irish 22 I think the game's over. That's disappointing, I suppose you look at big moments in games and we'll back at that and kick ourselves."

And it will not only be the Welsh camp who are analysing key moments come Monday morning.

Ireland started the game as if they wanted to blow Wales out of the water, which was something they almost achieved.

Joe Schmidt's side pinned Wales into their own half, with two Johnny Sexton penalties and a sniping Conor Murray try putting them well in control.

But despite ruling the breakdown throughout the first half, Ireland struggled to cope with the Welsh up front and following three successive five-metre scrums Faletau burrowed over to change the complexion of the contest.

"It's definitely something we came into the game looking to do, dominating collision, dominating ruck, which we did," Ireland prop Jack McGrath said. "But coming into the last 10 minutes of the first half we let them back into it which wasn't good enough."

It is perfectly understandable for the players to feel deflated when they have sacrificed so much for their team, but it should not be all doom and gloom for either side.

Although neither did quite enough to secure victory, in the context of the championship a draw is by no means a bad result.

Wales need only look back to 2013 for a Six Nations campaign that started with defeat -- against Ireland -- but ended with the trophy.

Ireland too were beneficiaries of last year's Super Saturday mayhem that saw them crowned champions on points difference following one of the most exciting denouements to a Six Nations in living memory.

"It was a tough, tough Test match, so that's a credit to both sides," Roberts added. "It's a draw, I know we've won a championship after losing the first game and we all remember what happened last year after teams lost a game on that last Saturday.

"So, the championship's wide open and we'll certainly know that if we win the next four games we'll be in with a shout."

And for one Irishman, at least, it seems that a draw is far from a terrible result.

Rhys Ruddock, Ireland's replacement flanker and son of Welsh Grand Slam-winning coach Mike, admitted that the result was likely to keep both sides of his family happy.

Unsurprisingly he proved the most constructive interviewee afterwards. "It's tough to know exactly how to feel about it straight after the game," he said.

"But we were pretty proud of ourselves for the way we hung in and managed to get the draw having been 16-13 down. So, there's definitely some positives to take out of it.

"I thought our defence was really good at the end as well. We were really tested by Wales, but we'll have a proper look at it and pick apart the performance and see how we can move onto the next game."