By Bea Asprey, Rugby World Writer
In a nutshell
Scotland knew they’d have to come out of the changing room firing if they were to beat Ireland at home, and some early pressure put them 0-6 ahead thanks to two penalty kicks from Greig Laidlaw. But Ireland responded by showing they meant business, opting to go for a lineout as a result of their own penalty, instead of taking a shot at goal. The gamble paid off, as captain Rory Best scored in the 14th minute, and the Scots were playing catch up for the rest of the game.
Richie Gray scored his first Test try three minutes before the half-time break, taking them within three points of Ireland, but the hosts immediately hit back with a try from Andrew Trimble, a score that nailed down the lid of Scotland’s coffin.
It’s no easy task filling the boots of Paul O’Connell, but Donnacha Ryan today showed why he’s been picked in the starting XV ahead of Donncha O’Callaghan at Munster this season. A real force in the lineout, he contributed to the pressure heaped on the Scots throughout the game, and ensured their set piece had a torrid afternoon.
Room for improvement
Scotland must improve on their focus and composure if they are to start winning Test matches. The game in Dublin was an all too familiar story for the visitors, and despite a strong start and a good try from Richie Gray, their territory and possession – both on a par with that of Ireland – was not converted into more points on the board.
Ireland captain Rory Best: “We made a nervy start. Being 6-nil down in the first 10 minutes at home s not ideal. But all credit to the boys, they rallied round, and Johnny (Sexton) kicked a crucial conversion to put us ahead (after 15 minutes). It was something we talked about in the week – if the kicks aren’t kickable just kick for territory and keep the pressure on, so Johnny decided to kick for the corner.”
Scotland coach Andy Robinson: “We knew Ireland’s kicking game would be good but we didn’t cope with it well today. The set piece, and the lineout in particular, didn’t go as well as we’d have liked it to. This is a step back. We didn’t put any shape together and turned over the ball after two or three phases. It’s not good enough.”
Ireland started a Six Nations game without both Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell for the first time since 2001 – a fact that will make this result even more pleasing for the team. In contrast, Scotland have won just two and drawn one of their last 14 Six Nations games, and have lost their last six games. That all makes it a long plane ride home.
Ireland: Rob Kearney (Fergus McFadden 73); Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy (Ronan O’Gara 54), Andrew Trimble; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Redddan (Tomás O’Leary 54); Cian Healy (Tom Court 51-59), Rory Best (capt, Sean Cronin 54), Mike Ross (Tom Court 78), Donncha O’Callaghan (Mike McCarthy 78), Donncha Ryan, Stephen Ferris, Peter O’Mahony (Shane Jennings 62), Jamie Heaslip.
Tries (4): Best, Reddan, Trimble, McFadden. Cons (3): Sexton. Pens (2): Sexton.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Lee Jones (Matt Scott 62), Nick De Luca, Graeme Morrison, Sean Lamont; Greig Laidlaw (Ruaridh Jackson 56), Mike Blair (Chris Cusiter 50); Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford (capt), Geoff Cross (Euan Murray 46), Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton (Al Kellock 59), John Barclay, Ross Rennie (Richie Vernon 59), David Denton.
Try: Gray. Pens (3) Laidlaw.
Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)