Ireland blitzed to an early lead at the Stade de France, scoring just over a minute into the crucial Pool B decider against Scotland through James Lowe. But it was possibly the Irish defence in the first half that was more impressive.
After taking the lead 5-0, the Scots came roaring back, but with phase after phase of attack – some count it at 18 – the Irish forced a turnover, as Zander Fagerson knocked on. In the stadium, the cameras panned to Ireland boss Andy Farrell roaring in approval.
It was a physical first half, with full-blooded contacts taking their toll. Indeed, the attrition saw Scotland lose Blair Kinghorn and captain Jamie Ritchie in the first half, while Mack Hansen went off for Ireland.
Hansen played his part in Ireland’s first try, with a Garry Ringrose break leading to him feeding Hansen and him feeding Lowe on the overlap. The wings combined for the opening score.
And after more fierce collisions, Hugo Keenan got Ireland’s a second score. But the unyielding defence played a major role.
Sam Warburton on the Irish defence
In his column for The Times, former Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton wrote about the Irish defence.
In it, he said: “Scotland’s defence under Steve Tandy is excellen, but the truth is that Ireland’s is much better.
“I have looked at both teams’ past 15 matches. How many times have they conceded more than 20 points? It’s always a good general indicator. With Wales, (Sean) Edwards would always set us a target of a maximum number points we should conceded. So, say against New Zealand that might be 18, but say against Italy it might be ten.
“In those 15 matches, Ireland have only conceded more than 20 points once, against New Zealand last year.”
And in the second half? More of the same.
Ireland rung the changes with more than 30 still to play, and would bring on five forwards at once and it was only after this that Scotland made their breakthrough.
Scotland got two counter-punch tries after Ireland had scored their sixth, with Ewan Ashman and Ali Price going over, but Ireland shut the gate again after that. And in the end, it was Irih anthem Zombie roaring out around the Stade de France once again.