Ireland finished off their Six Nations with a high-scoring win over a Scottish side who refused to back down, but who allowed the Irish onto the front foot too often to have a chance of winning.
The hosts utterly dominated the first half, despite a phenomenal solo try from Stuart Hogg. Two Irish tries were scored while John Barclay was in the sin-bin – including a calamitous score when Hogg and Tommy Seymour ran into each other – and it could have been pushed out of sight as the visitors kept getting turned back towards their own line.
However, the Scots displayed real grit as they roared into the second half and the neutrals will have enjoyed a contest that had seven tries and more than a little bit of niggle. Ireland have back-to-back wins to end their campaign. Scotland played with fits of excitement and scoring three tries again will please, but discipline and their scrum let them down just at the death of the tournament.
Players backing themselves – To begin with, it looked like a game that would be defined by cagey kicking. But with CJ Stander carrying at a metronomic rate and Stuart Hogg’s spot-the-gap-and-gun-it solo try, fans had something to cheer. The game came to life after these initial forays.
Irish ruck speed – Sexton had so much time to marshal his troops with the platform he and Conor Murray were allowed as the phases racked up. With John Barclay in the bin things only got worse for Scotland as two tries came back-to-back.
Scrum play – Hallelujah! No one will be talking about how much time was chewed up by scrums in this one. The ball went in and a lot of the time it came out again. What a breath of fresh air.
Scotland’s discipline – Two yellow cards will look significant over the whole piece, but eight penalties conceded in the first half made things so very difficult. Coming into this they had the best record in the whole championship, but things fell apart at the start of their last outing. Sexton got himself a yellow card too, but the disciplinary stats will belie the significance of when and where penalties were conceded.
Play acting – After being flipped out of a ruck recklessly by Alex Dunbar, Sexton appealed to the ref… then held his head and shouted out in ‘pain’. We could have done without that…
Prevalence of the maul – Kicked to touch from a penalty? Chances were always high that another penalty would come hot on the heels of the last one. Okay, that could very easily be a positive, but it’s not something that makes for entertaining rugby. In fact, it cannot be a good thing for the game as a whole to have such a certainty at play.
Afters – If you like pushing and shoving, this one had plenty, as things boiled over in the second half. It might have been worth it to see referee Gauzere wading in and dragging players away – and all of it caught on ref cam.
7 – The number of scrums Ireland won, compared to Scotland’s one.
4 – The surprisingly low number of turnovers all game.
50 – the number of kicks in open play.
Ireland: S Zebo; A Trimble (F McFadden 79), J Payne, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray (E Reddan 78); J McGrath (C Healy 67), R Best (capt, R Strauss 67), M Ross (N White 63), D Ryan (U Dillane 68), D Toner, CJ Stander, T O’Donnell (R Ruddock 68), J Heaslip.
Tries: Stander, Earls, Murray, Toner. Con: Sexton 3. Pens: Sexton 3
Yellow card: Sexton (76min)
Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour, D Taylor, A Dunbar, T Visser (S Lamont 69); D Weir (P Horne 62), G Laidlaw (capt), A Dickinson (R Sutherland 66), R Ford (McInally 50), WP Nel (M Low 68), R Gray, T Swinson (J Harley 63), J Barclay, J Hardie (J Strauss 52), R Wilson.
Tries: Hogg, Gray, Dunbar. Con: Laidlaw 2. Pens: Laidlaw 2.
Yellow card: Barclay (24min), Dunbar (67min).
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Man of the Match: Jamie Heaslip
For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here.