The Scotland captain squanders golden opportunity in Six Nations defeat by Ireland

Scotland’s Stuart Hogg drops ball over the line against Ireland

Johnny Sexton and Stuart Hogg had contrasting fortunes as they took on the captaincy roles for their countries in the opening round of the 2020 Six Nations.

Although there was only one try scored over the course of the 80 minutes at the Aviva Stadium, it was an entertaining game between Ireland and Scotland, with the hosts eventually winning 19-12. The two skippers will reflect on the match with very mixed emotions, though.

Hogg had asked Gregor Townsend for the opportunity to lead Scotland and his side came out with an attack-minded game plan in Dublin. However, when given a golden opportunity to score a second-half try Hogg dropped the ball over the line.

Hogg was presented with the chance of an easy run-in to the corner from a few metres out after great build-up work from Scotland but he couldn’t keep hold of the ball, as a quick check with the TMO showed…

The match could have been very different had Hogg grounded that ball. Instead he will be left to rue the missed opportunity.

Reflecting on the incident, Hogg said: “Schoolboy error. But I can’t change what happened, I just need to get on with it. I’ve apologised to the boys.

“I’m bitterly disappointed to drop the ball over the line. We got ourselves in a good position, after the forwards’ hard work and effort I’m disappointed I couldn’t finish it off.”

In contrast, Ireland captain Sexton scored all of his side’s points in this opening victory, with a converted try and four penalties.

The fly-half glided through Scotland’s defence to score the only try of the game after ten minutes. The forwards had retained possession well from a lineout, building pressure with strong carries as they took play across the field. When they came back to the left Conor Murray fired a pinpoint pass to his long-time half-back partner Sexton and the space opened up in front of him to touch down.

Watch the try here…

Sexton showed more from his box of tricks later in the half with a clever 22 dropout. Rather than kick long, he went cross-field to Jacob Stockdale and the winger broke in the Scotland half.

A few phases later, Scotland were penalised for offside and Sexton slotted the three points to give Ireland a 10-6 half-time lead.

Watch the dropout here…

All Scotland’s points came from the boot of Adam Hastings. They had try-scoring chances and stretched Ireland with their quick offloading and recycling, but too many times those chances were squandered as they entered the hosts’ 22.

As well as the error from Hogg, they had a great chance in the closing minutes after an initial break from Stuart McInally. Numerous carries from the forwards took Scotland close to the line but yet again they couldn’t find their way over and Ireland were eventually able to clear after winning a penalty at the breakdown. They couldn’t find that clinical edge.

The risk was there from Hogg & Co but no reward. Their ambition and inventiveness is illustrated in this move shortly before half-time, but they couldn’t make it across the whitewash…

“We’ve talked about expressing ourselves and having fun,” said Hogg. “We stuck to our detail in attack and stood firm in defence, we played with confidence and ambition. We’re disappointed not to come away with a positive result but we feel we’re in a good place and it’s about kicking on and learning from today, so we’re better come next Saturday.

“We’ve talked about our conversion rate in attack, getting to the 22 and coming away with points. Unfortunately we came up short there. We got into good situations and should have finished them off. Credit to Ireland’s defence; they were a nightmare for us at the breakdown.”

Improve their execution and they will likely trouble England’s defence next weekend.

The March 2020 issue of Rugby World magazine – a Six Nations special – is on sale now.

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