Ireland V Scotland
Scotland were left to rue costly errors at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin today as they went down 28-8 to their as-yet unbeaten hosts, who would later be crowned 2018 champions (by virtue of an England defeat Int Paris), with a game to spare.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt described the win as feeling like a “one score game” not a 20-point victory in praise of how hard the visitors pressured and caused problems for the full 80 minutes.
While Scotland undoubtedly played better than the opening round loss in Cardiff, the team were left to rue some critical errors which both gifted Ireland points and cost them scoring opportunities of their own.
The promise of a strong start by Scotland materialised and they took the lead with a penalty from scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, despite Irish pressure in the opening minutes (0-3).
Scotland were able to set and maintain a high tempo but had to go to bench twice in first half for head injury assessments for Ryan Wilson and Blair Kinghorn.
Twice Scotland gave up decent possession and momentum in Ireland’s 22 in the first half with accuracy again the buzzword, but also a reflection of the pressure in the game.
After weathering the early storm Scotland’s own ambition created the first try for Ireland when a Pete Horne pass was intercepted by Jacob Stockdale, who was able to run in unopposed under the posts. Sexton converted (7-3).
The score gave the Irish an extra gear for the next spell and a clever switch move from a scrum inside the Scotland half saw centre Garry Ringrose race into the 22.
Scotland back-row Hamish Watson won a penalty at the resulting breakdown to alleviate the pressure, but Hogg missed touch and Ireland attacked again.
For all Scotland’s invention and speed of play, mistimed passes and breakdown penalties meant momentum was hard to come by and Ireland were happy to be patient and take their opportunities.
Scotland’s best spell of pressure in the half came just before the break as they generated 13 phases in the Irish 22 but could not capitalise through stout defence, eventually conceding another penalty at the breakdown.
It took until the final play of the first half for the home side to score again. An overthrown Scottish lineout was snapped up by Ireland in Scotland’s half and full-back Rob Kearney drew in the defence as Ireland charged for the line.
Centre Pete Horne and hooker Stuart McInally got under the ball to prevent a try but from the resulting 5m scrum, Stockdale took a pass out wide and stepped his opposite number to get his brace. Sexton converted to close the half.
Half-time: Ireland 14-3 Scotland
Ireland were halfway to their required bonus-point win as the second 40 got underway and a series of penalties got them in a great position 5m out from the Scotland line.
From the resulting lineout maul scrum-half Conor Murray sniped in close to score Ireland’s third just four minutes into the half with Sexton adding the extras (21-3).
Scotland responded well and a great restart pinned the hosts deep in their 22. The Irish conceded a subsequent penalty and Hogg was able to pin them back further.
As play moved in-field Scotland won a penalty and opted for a scrum under the Ireland posts. The scrum gave a strong platform for the backs to go through hands and for wing Blair Kinghorn, on his starting debut, to dot down in the corner.
Laidlaw hit the crossbar with his conversion attempt (21-8).
As Scotland continued to push for a foothold to close down the Irish lead a mixture of missed passes and penalties stifled momentum.
Ireland could see their target in sight and it was only excellent Scotland defence that saw a 17-phase attack yield no return.
Just after the hour Scotland we’re again penalised at the breakdown but Sexton missed his first shot at goal of day.
Ireland’s bonus point was achieved soon after however, from a breakdown penalty, which was kicked to the corner this time.
Replacement hooker Sean Cronin touched down from the driving maul off the resulting lineout, with stand-off Sexton making no mistake this time round (28-8).
On 74 minutes a good Scotland attack was denied on the line.
Scotland’s ambition and fitness burned bright to the end and their final attack began seconds before the 80 minutes was up, as they moved from their own 22 through 13 phases before a knock-on ended the game.
Full-time: Ireland 28-8 Scotland
Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Bundi Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best (capt), Taigh Furlong; James Ryan, Devin Toner; Peter O'Mahony, Dan Leavy, CJ Stander. Substitutes: Cronin, McGrath, Porter, Henderson, Murphy, Marmion, Carbery, Larmour.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Blair Kinghorn, Huw Jones, Pete Horne, Sean Maitland; Finn Russel), Greig Laidlaw; Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist Jonny Gray, John Barclay CAPTAIN, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson . Substitutes: Fraser Brown on for McInally (59’), Jamie Bhatti on for Reid (54’), Willem Nel on for Berghan (54’), Tim Swinson on for Gray (71’), David Denton on for Wilson (17’), Ali Price on for Laidlaw (66’), Nick Grigg on for Horne (73’), Lee Jones on for Kinghorn (21’), reversed (31’).