Scotland hold on to defeat Ireland
|Six Nations: Scotland v Ireland|
|Scotland (21) 27|
|Tries: Hogg 2, Dunbar Cons: Laidlaw 3 Pens: Laidlaw 2|
|Ireland (8) 22|
|Tries: Earls, Henderson, Jackson Cons: Jackson 2 Pen: Jackson|
Scotland survived a thrilling Ireland comeback at Murrayfield to record only their second opening-round victory in Six Nations history.
The hosts enjoyed a stunning start despite Ireland’s scrum dominance, full-back Stuart Hogg crossing twice.
Keith Earls scored in the corner but Alex Dunbar’s try from a clever line-out move put the Scots 21-5 up.
Tries from Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson put Ireland 22-21 ahead before Greig Laidlaw’s two late penalties.
It was a remarkable conclusion to a scintillating opening match of this year’s Championship, with Ireland – who took a losing bonus point – having 70% of the possession in the second half.
But, despite scoring 17 unanswered points either side of the interval, Irish hopes of a third title in four years suffered a major blow.
They must now lift themselves for next Saturday’s trip to face Italy in Rome, while Scotland travel to play France the following day in buoyant mood.
Clinical Scotland punish Irish errors
This was an absolute firecracker of a Test match, a classic of its kind. It got off to a thunderous start and rarely let up. The portents for the Scots were not good in the early minutes when their scrum came under heavy attack and started shipping penalties at an alarming rate, but their game-breakers soon came to prominence and set Murrayfield alight.
Scotland were clinical, seizing on uncharacteristic Irish errors. When they applied pressure in the visitors’ 22 and Garry Ringrose unwisely came out of the defensive line, Hogg went outside him and through for the opening score.
The Scots weathered an Irish backlash and hit them with another score just after the first quarter.
Zander Fagerson forced a turnover on the floor and Scotland went from there. From a line-out, Finn Russell, standing flat to the advantage line, found Huw Jones, who sent Hogg away. The full-back dummied Rob Kearney to go over and Laidlaw made it 14-0 with the conversion.
Ireland responded and got reward for waves of pressure when Earls went over, but that only galvanised Scotland to get a third try. And it was a thing of wonder. A beautiful crossfield kick from Russell forced Simon Zebo into conceding the line-out.
The Scottish line-out then pulled the canniest trick in the book, front-loading it with three backs – Laidlaw, Tommy Seymour and Dunbar.
Ireland didn’t think for one second that Ross Ford’s throw was going to one of them, but it did. He threw it flat to Dunbar who, surreally, went through a gap to score.
Laidlaw’s conversion made it 21-5, Jackson’s penalty reducing the deficit to 21-8 just before the break.
Irish onslaught turns the tide
The second half was utterly extraordinary. Ireland mobilised their troops in a very major way. They owned the ball for vast sections of the half, Henderson scoring after monumental pressure finally broke through incredible Scottish resistance.
Ireland came again, with power and intent. Conor Murray broke free and linked with Jamie Heaslip but the outstanding Ryan Wilson, with help from a Sean Maitland interception, snuffed out the danger.
Next, Maitland’s tackle forced Kearney to put a foot in touch on the right wing, denying Earls a second try.
In the midst of the onslaught, Jonny Gray was a defensive rock. A total colossus. When Irishmen went down in the tackle it was normally Gray who put him there.
Not even Gray and his army of heavy-hitters could stop Ireland from scoring again, however. They were making yards and finding holes against a seemingly tiring Scotland and Jackson stretched to score and then converted his own try.
‘Sheer delirium’ after late twist
Ireland were ahead for the first time; 21-20 after 62 minutes.
Scotland’s goose looked cooked, but these players have learned some lessons on the road to this victory, some bitter lessons from matches that should have been won but were lost in the closing minutes.
Roles were reversed here. From somewhere, Scotland summoned grunt and control and won a penalty that Laidlaw fired over to put them back in the lead. They kicked on, controlling the ball, looking after it like it was a new-born babe. Ireland couldn’t get near it.
The last act was another penalty from the captain, boomed over against a backdrop of sheer delirium.
This was Scotland’s biggest victory in 18 years, since they were champions in 1999. Nobody will be thinking about trophies, but Scotland have momentum – and history.
Paris next, with a mighty spring in the step.
|1 (0)||Scrums won (lost)||5 (0)|
|10 (2)||Line-outs won (lost)||12 (2)|
|103 (2)||Rucks/mauls won (lost)||153 (5)|
|24||Kicks from hand||25|
|231 (32)||Tackles made (missed)||115 (8)|
Scotland: Hogg; Maitland, Jones, Dunbar, Seymour; Russell, Laidlaw (capt); Dell, Brown, Fagerson, R Gray, J Gray, Wilson, Watson, Strauss
Replacements: Ford (for Brown, blood 5-11, then 27), Reid (for Dell, 56), Berghan, Swinson (for Strauss, 65), Barclay (for Watson, 49), Price, Weir (temp for Russell, 46-52), Bennett (for Jones, 60)
Ireland: Kearney; Earls, Henshaw, Ringrose, Zebo; Jackson, Murray; McGrath, Best (capt), Furlong, Henderson, Toner, Stander, O’Brien, Heaslip
Replacements: Scannell, Healy (for McGrath, 56), Ryan (for Furlong, 69), Dillane (for Henderson, 64), Van der Flier (for O’Brien, 66), Marmion, Keatley, Bowe (for Earls, 68).
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Touch judges: Jaco Peyper (South Africa) and Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
For the latest rugby union news follow @bbcrugbyunion on Twitter.
Source: BBC News – Northern Ireland