04 Feb MATCH REPORT | Scotland 27 – 22 Ireland
Scotland won their opening match in the RBS 6 Nations Championship for the first time in 11 years with a rip-roaring success against Ireland in front of a capacity crowd at BT Murrayfield this afternoon.
It was Scotland’s first win against Ireland in four years and all the sweeter for the rousing manner in which it was achieved.
While Scotland were gloriously extravagant in some of their attacking shape in that first-half – and none more so than the RBS Man of the Match, Stuart Hogg, they had to dig deep defensively in both periods, but especially in the second-half.
And then, they found a way to win the game with two penalties during the final ten minutes two overturn the world rankings and thwart an Irish revival which had seen the momentum swing to the green corner in the second half.
Scotland Head Coach, Vern Cotter, said: “Credit to Greig and the boys, they got it back in the last 10 minutes and got the win in what was a tough Test match. In all, it’s great to see and a good result.
“A lot of things came off [in Scotland’s favour]. I don’t think we started particularly well – we lost the first scrum and lineout – but made up for it with some good lineout defence and I thought we were pretty physical at the breakdown, which is key. In defence, the guys rolled their sleeves up and were reasonably accurate, and we kept them out and won some turnovers and I thought we put together some pretty good plays to get over the line.
“What was nice, as everyone saw, was stopping them scoring tries a metre from the line with total commitment, scramble defence and then being able to get a grip of the game in the last 10 minutes was a great result.”
Scotland captain, Greig Laidlaw, added: “Yes, there is [the belief to close games out]. We know what plays to go to in tight games, we know what to do, it’s the way we’re coached during the week through Vern and the rest of the coaches, and we know how to put pressure on teams through field possession and that’s why we won the game today.
“We lost our way in the third period of the game, but to grab it back was so pleasing. The lineout started to function, which put them under pressure, and then we won a few penalties which really brought us home. It was a great team effort, and we’re delighted to start the Championship with a win.”
Scotland kicked off from the railway end of the ground and the first two scrums ended with penalties to Ireland, though not within kicking range.
In the eighth minute, however, it was Scotland who took the lead. Finn Russell had found some space on the Irish right with an intelligent kick from hand and Keith Earls’ clearance was sclaffed.
From the lineout, Ryan Wilson won at the tail and Scotland drove hard and purposefully. Through the phases it went and when Josh Strauss was denied close to the line, ball was switched left and Stuart Hogg gathered to, blaze in for his 14th try for Scotland and repeat his five pointer from last year. Greig Laidlaw converted.
In Ireland’s response, they twice opted to attack from penalties, once via the touchline, rather than kick for goal but Scotland’s defence was resolute.
The first quarter ended with a penalty count 5-1 against Scotland and the scrum was proving something of a headache, but, in open play, Scotland had looked threatening.
And the rich confirmation came in the 20th minute. From Richie Gray’s athleticism at the lineout, Laidlaw picked up from his bootlaces and Scotland swept left for Jones to release Hogg at a cracking lick. The full-back had Sean Maitland outside but Rob Kearney and half the West Stand bought the sumptuous dummy and Scotland had a stunning second try. Laidlaw again converted.
Ireland put their first points on the board through a Keith Earls try in the 25th minute – Tommy Seymour all but pulling off an audacious interception – but Paddy Jackson could not convert, so Scotland led 14-5.
Within three minutes the scoreline had changed. As the learned correspondent from Reuters asked: “What was Alex Dunbar doing in that lineout? Answer, taking Ross Ford’s throw which had been set-up by a crafted, stabbed grubber kick from Finn Russell, and then sailing in for Scotland’s third try. Laidlaw converted gloriously from the right touchline.
A side entry penalty enabled Jackson to pull back three points for the visitors in the 33rd minute and the drama continued unabated as Scotland again menaced in Irish territory with Hogg asking repeated questions and then Simon Zebo intercepted and kicked ahead but Scotland retreated in sufficient numbers to repossess and Laidlaw to hoof the ball to safety.
Half-time: Scotland 21 – 8 Ireland
Ireland, with Jamie Heaslip so often the catalyst, launched wave after wave of attack off an East Stand lineout as the game resumed.
Ireland opted to scrum when they were awarded a penalty to the left of the uprights and again the bludgeon was rewarded as Iain Henderson eventually bulldozed over for their second try on 47 minutes. Jackson converted. (21-15)
Scotland were living dangerously and when Russell’s grubber kick was blocked, Conor Murray regathered and Heaslip was on the charge. A timely interception by Sean Maitland came to Scotland’s rescue.
Maitland then made a try-saving tackle on Kearney as Ireland were dominating. You felt a score had to come and sure enough it did when Jackson found a gap and did just enough to touch down, Garry Ringrose having been pivotal in the build-up. Jackson’s conversion gave Ireland a one-point lead and 14 unanswered points thus far this half.
Scotland strove to find a way back into the game and from a thrust by John Barclay, Ireland were pinged for loitering in the tackle. Laidlaw goaled to give Scotland their first points of the half and a crucial lead.
Now was the time for cool heads and composure and Scotland had it in spades. They managed the last few minutes in manner that was so sweet – given we’ve been on the receiving end of it so many times.
A penalty to touch to retain possession and build phases and then on 79 minutes, a penalty to Scotland. Laidlaw, in control, signalled for the posts and as the clock went red the ball bisected the uprights for a memorable home success.
Full-time: Scotland 27 – 22 Ireland
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Sean Maitland (Saracens), Huw Jones (Stormers), Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell (all Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester) CAPTAIN; Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby), Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Toulouse), Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson (both Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby), Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors).
Subs: Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby) for Brown (4-9 mins then 25), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors) for Dell (55 mins), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) for Strauss (65 mins), John Barclay (Scarlets) for Watson (48 mins), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), Duncan Weir (Edinburgh Rugby) for Russell (45 -51 mins), Mark Bennett (Glasgow Warriors) for Jones (59mins).
Ireland: Rob Kearney (Leinster); Keith Earls (Munster), Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Simon Zebo (Munster); Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster); Jack McGrath (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster) CAPTAIN, Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Devin Toner (Leinster), C J Stander (Munster), Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (both Leinster)
Subs: Niall Scannell (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster) for McGrath (56 mins), John Ryan (Munster) for Furlong (68 mins), Ultan Dillane (Connacht) for Henderson (63 mins), Josh Van Der Flier (Leinster) for O’Brien (65 mins), Keiran Marmion (Connacht), Ian Keatley (Munster), Tommy Bowe (Ulster) for Earls (67 mins).
RBS Man of the Match: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)