Scotland came within one point of spoiling Ireland's Triple Crown party at Murrayfield today but Ronan O'Gara was Ireland's man of the moment, claiming all their points with one converted try and four penalties. Scotland had come from behind for a five point lead half way through the second half but a further two successful kicks from O'Gara saw an end to the Scots' battling.
Scotland came within one point of spoiling Ireland's Triple Crown party at Murrayfield today but Ronan O'Gara was Ireland's man of the moment, claiming all their points with one converted try and four penalties.
Scotland had come from behind for a five point lead half way through the second half but a further two successful kicks from O'Gara saw an end to the Scots' battling. Coming into the match, most pundits thought that the final outcome was a foregone conclusion but even though Ireland eventually claimed the win, Scotland certainly made them earn it.
Nevertheless, it's no consolation for the air of disappointment and frustration at the final whistle to know how close they were to a noteworthy victory.
Indeed, Scotland's management team seemed altogether more disappointed with today's result than the reverse to Italy a fortnight ago.
Now that might have been the pain of defeat talking and it might also have been that the dent to Scotland's confidence caused by the Italian defeat was greater than had been calculated.
In any event head coach Frank Hadden found little to praise. "I'm bitterly disappointed in the outcome of today's game. We did not perform well enough. We did not perform with enough accuracy and precision at any stage of the game to get a grip on it and to defeat an Ireland side that were there for the taking," he lamented.
While Scotland worked like demons in defence (making 108 tackles to Ireland's 70 according to the tournament statistics) and showed impressive flair in the few breakout moves they had - particularly those from Sean Lamont - Ireland's attack was persistent and when in possession, they rarely failed to make ground.
Even though Ireland had the majority of possession and territory in the opening half an hour, they couldn't pull away significantly from the Scots, who kept the scoreboard ticking over with the ever reliable boot of captain Chris Paterson.
Ireland looked dangerous in the opening minutes with lock Paul O'Connell stretching his legs on a notable rangy midfield break before O'Gara opened the scoring.
Scotland equalised with a Chris Paterson penalty after their first extended solid run of play and while Ireland battered and jinked their way through the midfield, Scotland made good use of the width of the pitch with the chip and chase.
The Scots first major scoring chance came a quarter of the way into the game when Ireland's Shane Horgan put up the high ball and it landed with Sean Lamont, who set out on one of his barn-storming runs up the park, dragging Irish defenders with him. He offloaded to Paterson who pinned his ears back and went for the line but he was hauled down short and took a hefty, accidental, blow to the face from Irish scrum half Stringer's boot as he leapt over him.
The home crowd were inspired by the Scots'attempts and did well to silence the Irish supporters but the tables were turned just before the half hour mark when Scotland stand off, Dan Parks' clearance kick was charged down and Ireland pounced, eventually sending O'Gara in for the try.
Not to be deterred though, Scotland headed straight back up the opposite end of the park from the restart and when, after a scrum close to Ireland's try line didn't bear fruit, they worked the ball over to the opposite side of the pitch, Parks floating a long pass out to Hugo Southwell who came close to the line but at the breakdown, Scotland knocked on to set up another close scrum, this time in Ireland's favour.
However, a sharp blast came from referee Dave Pearson's whistle as Ireland collapsed the scrum, giving Scotland the penalty and another three points from Paterson's boot.
There was one more to come from Paterson before half time but also another from O'Gara meaning they headed into the break 9-13 and all to play for.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Scotland did well to keep a clean sheet, even gaining another three points from Paterson, while Hines was in the sin bin.
Ireland had used the one man advantage to batter Scotland's try line but the home side held fast and kept their patience as they slowly worked the ball away from their own line.
Ireland only managed to get in close for the try once more as RBS Man of the Match Denis Hickie sped towards the line but, covering a fair bit of ground on the way to the corner, Scotland winger Lamont slammed him into touch and Hickie took the corner flag with him as he tried to touch down.
It seemed a turning point in the game as Scotland were next on the scoresheet, Paterson kicking them to within a point on the 50th minute and adding a further three points eight minutes later.
With an added vigour in their open play and a solid display from the set piece (Scotland winning 12 scrums to Ireland's five) it looked like an upset may be on the cards.
However, having already conceded eight penalties, Scotland were to give away a further three in the final quarter of an hour (only two of which were converted by O'Gara) which took the visitors one point ahead of Scotland as the final whistle approached.
In this game against Ireland there was to be no final minute score for Scotland - a la France and as far as the Triple Crown goes, today's Murrayfield visitors certainly had the "luck of the Irish".
On reflection, Scotland managed to contain Ireland's attack, which is something that a number of other teams to have faced them recently cannot claim.
And even though Scotland were disappointed by the final result, their tenacious performance made even the men in green seem somewhat subdued as they collected their Triple Crown trophy.
Given that previous result between the Irish and Scotland's next opponents, France, Scotland can take heart of out today's game as they head for Paris next week.
0-3: Ronan O'Gara pen (6 mins)
3-3: Chris Paterson penalty (15 mins)
3-8: Ronan O'Gara try (29 mins)
3-10: Ronan O'Gara conversion
6-10: Chris Paterson penalty (34 mins)
6-13: Ronan O'Gara penalty (37 mins)
9-13: Chris Paterson penalty (39 mins)
12-13: Chris Paterson penalty (50 mins)
15-13: Chris Paterson penalty (58 mins)
18-13: Chris Paterson penalty (64 mins)
18-16: Ronan O'Gara penalty (66 mins)
18-19: Ronan O'Gara penalty (69 mins)
Southwell (R Lamont 39 mins); S Lamont, Di Rollo (Henderson 65 mins), Dewey, Paterson (captain); Parks, Cusiter (Lawson 57 mins); Kerr (Jacobsen 60 mins), Hall (Ford 60 mins), E Murray, Hines, S Murray (Hamilton 77 mins), Taylor, Callam (Hogg 53 mins), Brown.
Ford, Jacobsen, Hamilton, Hogg, Lawson, Henderson, R Lamont.
Dempsey; Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt), D'Arcy, Hickie; O'Gara, Stringer; Horan, R Best (Flannery 59 mins), Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, S Easterby (N Best 67 mins), D Wallace, Leamy.
Flannery, S Best, M O'Driscoll, N Best, Reddan, P Wallace, Trimble.
Ref: Dave Pearson (RFU)
RBS man of the match: Denis Hickie.