Scotland secured a second successive win in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations with a heroic 12-8 margin over Ireland at Murrayfield Stadium today – the first back-to-back triumph in this competition since 2001.
By contrast, today's result was one of sheer grit and determination, as opposed to the free-flowing success over the Italians, but it tasted every bit as sweet for the capacity crowd who watched the home side come back from eight-nil down.
While it’s been said before, by interim head coach Scott Johnson himself no less, that stats don’t show the whole picture – likening the analogy to a bikini – Ireland’s 70% possession and territory, 124 carries to Scotland’s 35, 310 metres made to Scotland’s 122, and 44 tackles to the home side’s eye-watering 128 is surely the skimpiest of swimsuits, revealing an awful lot about the effort made by the boys in blue.
Johnson said: "My neck was getting sore looking at one side of the pitch, but we got a ‘W’ today when we did not get our part right. We want the Ws to come when we get our part right.
We showed some great resolve and great character but we have to be honest and say that was not perfect from us.
Captain Kelly Brown, who again topped the tackle count with 15, added: “We’re just really happy to get the win, but we know we have to be much better against Wales if we’re to repeat it.”
Scotland started brightly in phases but it was Ireland who threatened with the big breaks – inside-centre Luke Marshall bursting through on the inside ball.
The fans feared the worst when Ryan Grant was yellow carded for not being 10 metres on an Ireland quick tap, but the hosts showed tremendous character to weather the Irish onslaught. With a man down, the scoreboard remained unchanged for the ten minute man-disadvantage.
And so it remained until five minutes before half-time, as miss-firing Ireland stand-off Paddy Jackson slotted the penalty to put his side 3-0 up at the break.
Unfortunately for Scotland, the men in blue could not keep up their relentless defensive efforts early in the second-half, as Ireland flowed forward, allowing wing Craig Gilroy to dive over from close range.
A missed conversion from Jackson continued to make the memorable day of his Ireland debut increasingly forgettable, and gave Scotland a lifeline which, by tooth and nail, they battled to reel in.
Scotland fought for possession, for territory and for every inch of the four successful penalty opportunities presented to steely-nerved scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, each of which he sent through the sticks as Murrayfield roared them on: 52 minutes, 59 minutes, 63 minutes, 73 minutes; each on bringing a greater roar from the home support as they sensed special comeback was on the cards.
It was ironic then that, with kicks becoming increasing crucial, Ireland brought on the experienced Ronan O’Gara to steady the ship and retake the lead should the opportunity arise, only for the 129-capped stand-off to put pressure on his on side with questionable decision making with the boot.
Despite these cross-field efforts going astray, Ireland threw everything at Scotland for the last ten minutes, crashing into the blue wall and grinding their way upfield.
It was then, on the 5m line, that Scotland turned over possession and, with Ireland penalised, the whistle was blown and the crowd were on their feet for the loudest cheer of all.Scotland team:
Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Rob Harley, Kelly Brown (captain), Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements: Doug Hall (for Ford, 46mins), Jon Welsh, Moray Low (for Cross, 74m), Alastair Kellock (for Hamilton, 70m), David Denton (for Beattie 70m), Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir (for Jackson, 59mins) and Max Evans.
Rob Kearney; Craig Gilroy, Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls; Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Tom Court, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donnacha O'Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Declan Fitzpatrick (for Tom Court, 52mins), Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Eoin Reddan (for Murray, 69mins), Ronan O'Gara (for Jackson, 63mins) and Luke Fitzgerald (for Gilroy, 60mins).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
67,006RBS Man of the match: