Club International: Ireland 21 Scotland 18
Scotland suffered a cruel injury time defeat in tonight’s club international against Ireland at Donnybrook in Dublin when the hosts’ substitute centre Darragh Fitzpatrick landed a 35 metre drop-goal two minutes into injury time to seal their win.
In truth the Scots had done well to claw their way back into the game but having done so they didn’t play enough of the closing stages in territory to cause anxiety among the Irish instead enabling the home pack to unveil their pick-and-go card with the inevitable consequences.
Scotland manager Ian Rankin acknowledged his team had started slowly. “Ireland’s driving maul was very effective with their two early scores before we had got up to the speed of the game,” he said. Scotland’s fightback was certainly bold but, not for the first time this season, a team in blue endured a fraught finale.
To this observer Scotland didn’t do enough to exploit the pace of either of their wingers and well though the back-row of John Dalziel, Ross Weston and the admirable Mark Cairns played in dynamic midfield thrusts, there was a tendency from others in the pack to be lateral in their movement.
Scotland guddled in their own 22 in the opening exchanges and spent the first five minutes on the back foot as the Irish pack rumbled from a scrum deep in Scotland territory. It appeared their scrum-half and captain Sam Cronin had been derailed just short of the try line but the cavalry arrived in the shape of Ireland’s livewire No 8 Frank Cogan who drove over for the try.
Malcolm Clapperton and Cairns threatened in Scotland’s first sortie into Irish territory but a knock-on from Finlay Gillies quashed that chance.
Such largesse seemed even costlier in the 14th minute as from a textbook penalty to touch and lineout catch and percussive drive Irish hooker Mike Essex was credited with their second score. Full-back Daragh O’Shea converted this time and it was 12-0 to the hosts.
Stand-off Scott Wight pulled back three points for Scotland when he landed a penalty following a high tackle on full-back Fraser Harkness but as the game entered the second quarter Wight couldn’t repeat his accuracy, this time from longer distance with a second penalty attempt.
O’Shea also miscued for Ireland before Fitzpatrick, who was a 26th minute substitute for Eric Moloney, landed his first successful goal kick when Scotland were pinged for scrum collapse.
Two minutes from the interval, however, and the substantial visiting support were given something to cheer. It started innocuously enough as Rory McKay latched on to a stray Irish lineout tap-down. Damien Kelly bruised in support and unleashed a grand pass to Gillies who took the ball at a rare old lick.
Scotland repossessed and spread ball left for Harkness – who scored a brace of tries in Scotland’s win in the corresponding fixture at Myreside last season – to be awarded the try though only after the referee had consulted with an Irish touch-judge who gave the score. It seemed a bit of luck had gone Scotland’s way as there were hints of a knock-on.
Wight missed the conversion but was on target just two minutes later as another sweeping attack from the visitors saw Cairns trigger Clapperton who blazed in at the posts, though quite how the referee and his two touch-judges missed the obstructive line run by McKay was a cause for concern in home ranks.
Half-time Ireland 15 Scotland 15
Scotland made a much sprightlier start to the second-half, the introduction of prop Alan Dymock producing some dynamic forward driving with an altogether better body position.
In the 47th minute Scotland eschewed a golden chance. James Fleming, who had been policed in tight confines, followed up a crossfield kick from Wight and though his opposite number claimed it, Fleming out-muscled him to win the ball. Sadly, however, the supporting Kelly couldn’t hold on as the ball ballooned free with the line almost at his mercy.
It was turning into a tight affair and when Fitzpatrick failed with a 50th minute penalty then Irish left-wing Stephen Kelly couldn’t quite latch on to his own hack ahead before the dead-ball line loomed large, such an impression was given vivid confirmation.
Both coaches turned to their substitutes’ bench as the game entered its last quarter. Ireland stand-off Barry Keeshan missed a 65th minute drop-goal attempt before Fitzpatrick notched his second penalty ten minutes from time to restore Ireland’s lead at 18-15.
From the restart, Cairns repossessed brilliantly to set up a drop-goal chance for Wight. The stand-off mis-fired but the Irish were offside enabling the Melrose ten to duly level with his second penalty.
Scotland were thereafter rewarded for some patient build-up play when Fraser Thomson and Harkness found space on the right and Harkness seemed to be obstructed as he stabbed a kick-ahead into the Irish in-goal. Substitute Cameron Ferguson followed-up – was he in front of the kicker? – but to no avail as the ball bobbled to safety. The referee again chatted to his touch-judge but the eventual ruling was a 22 drop-out.
On such episodes do matches turn and in the closing stages the Irish pack roused themselves for one Herculean effort. Fitzpatrick pushed a close-range penalty across the face of the posts in the 78th minute but from the game’s last play the same player calmly fired the winning drop-goal much to the obvious disappointment of the Scots.
Ireland: Daragh O’Shea; Matt Healy, Eric Moloney, Killian Lett, Stephen Kelly; Barry Keeshan, Sam Cronin captain; John Ryan, Mike Essex, Simon Shawe, Paul Huntly, Fergal Walsh, Hugh Hogan, Frank Cogan, Zach Farivars. Subs: Ger Slattery, Christy Condon, Simon Crawford, Robin Copeland, Cathal Sheridan, Darragh Fitzpatrick, Sean Scanlon.
Scotland: Fraser Harkness (Selkirk); James Fleming (Dundee HSFP), Malcolm Clapperton (Boroughmuir), James King (Melrose), Fraser Thomson; Scott Wight (both Melrose), Richard Snedden (Currie); Gordon Reid (Ayr), Finlay Gillies (Heriot’s), Alastair Hamilton (Currie), Rory McKay (Glasgow Hawks), Damien Kelly (Ayr), John Dalziel (Melrose) CAPTAIN, Ross Weston, Mark Cairns (both Currie).
Subs: Alan Dymock (Heriot’s) for Reid half time, Reid for Hamilton (59 mins), Scott Sutherland (Ayr) for McKay (64 mins), Cameron Ferguson (Dundee HSFP) for Fleming (68 mins), Andy Dunlop (Ayr) for Weston (73 mins) and Gregor Wood (Watsonians) for Gillies (77 mins). Unused: Graham Wilson (Heriot’s) and Andy McMahon (Currie).
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)
AIB Man of the Match: Damien Kelly (Scotland)