Three matches in three weeks showed on tired Irish bodies but they deservedly overcame the Scots.
Scotland won a scrum after 30 seconds just outside the Irish 22 after an error from Eoin Reddan. The pending battle was clear from that opening joust as both captains and hookers looked to gain the upper hand in the front row.
Scotland went three points ahead on three minutes though it could have been seven. Tommy Bowe looking for the intercept was caught offside as Scotland forward passed with the line at their mercy. Laidlaw converted the resulting penalty.
Scotland were on top early doors; completing line breaks almost at will and deservedly went 0-6 ahead after an infringement in a ruck by D’Arcy from 30 metres out almost straight in front of the posts on eight minutes.
Ireland enjoyed their first foray into enemy territory on 12 minutes with Sexton surprisingly going for touch when three points seemed a “gimme.” Irish positivity was rewarded when Donncha Ryan’s terrific line-out take was offloaded to Rory Best and the new captain barged over from five metres out for his second try in this Six Nations.
Sexton remained composed and converted the extras following a bizarre “charge-down” from Lamont; Ireland 7-6 Scotland on 15 minutes.
Next moment of note came from the in-form Kearney; with yet another excellent high take from a Scottish up and under just inside the home half. Ireland won a penalty from the resulting ruck with the Leinster man finding touch on the visiting 22. Ireland went through the phases from there but the ball was quite slow and the home side were held up five metres short, eventually turning the ball over.
On 23 minutes came the shock moment of the Six Nations so far as Scotland lost their first line-out (out of 33) of the campaign. Ireland were turning the screw in the scrum and from the resultant penalty; Sexton went for the posts this time and it went through from 40 metres. Ireland 10-6 Scotland on 26 minutes.
Ireland then turned over the ball just outside the Scot’s 22; the resultant clearance kick was very costly for Ireland as Best was forced into touch 10 metres from his try-line. The resulting line-out led to a penalty. They went for the touch-line and looked to be about to cross the line when Ireland dropped the maul. The further resulting penalty went to touch again and Scotland once again won another penalty with O’Callaghan infringing. This time the visitors went for the posts and Laidlaw converted the three points the Scots deserved: Ireland 10-9 Scotland on 32 minutes.
Ireland were on the front foot almost from nowhere thereafter; recycling the ball a few times; the ball broke loose 10 metres from the Scottish try-line. Eoin Reddan picked up the loose ball, stumbled past a couple of hands and the Scottish try-line opened. Ireland 17-9 Scotland on 35 minutes.
Scotland got the try they deserved as giant second row Richie Gray got the ball 30 metres out; bursting through Tommy Bowe’s weak tackle rounded Reddan, with Trimble and Kearney arriving too late to prevent the touchdown. Terrific try from the 6’9″ giant who should go on the 2013 Lions Tour. Conversion hit post; Ireland 17-14 Scotland on 39 minutes.
Scotland’s try was a big fillip for them. They very disappointed – and unlucky – to go in eight points down at half-time however as Trimble held off FIVE would be tacklers to squeeze over the try line just inside the flag, two minutes into dead time.
HALF-TIME: Ireland 22-14 Scotland
The second-half started as the first had ended with another terrific high take from Kearney and Healy putting in more hard yards. From a kick deep inside his own half; Kearney found a fantastic touch, giving Ireland a line-out eight metres out. The resulting line-out was crooked however and Scotland were let off the hook.
The first substitution was made with Scotland’s Murray replacing Cross; the fresh legs intending on putting pressure on Healy.
10 minutes into what had become a very open second-half; Bowe was dramatically denied a try. Having taken a cross field kick from Kearney; Bowe was held up on (in fact; just over) the Scottish try-line with great strength from opposing winger Morrison. The ref consulted the TMO, who incorrectly called it as a penalty to Scotland.
It should in fact have been a penalty to Ireland (because the in-goal area does not count as part of the field of play and Bowe was held up over the try-line). Big let-off for Scotland as a score would have surely sealed the game.
Tom Court then replaced the terrific Healy as Coach Kidney adopted a mentality of “What we have we hold.” Sexton was also called ashore as O’Gara was called in to the fray to see the game home by playing for the touch lines. The Healy substitution proved to be brief however as the Clontarf colossus returned to the fray after stitching.
Bang on the hour mark came a very nasty bang on Lee Jones. Trimble crashed into the young Scottish scrum-half who was pole axed well inside the Irish 22 with the Scots really building up a head of steam. It resulted in the game being held up for seven minutes, with New Zealand referee Chris Pollock reacting quickly to insure Jones got the attention he clearly needed. The Edinburgh man was eventually stretchered off but was reported as being “alert” on the sideline.
The second half had started to turn into a bit of a damp squib and after a very busy – and score laden – first half; we went a full 30 minutes of the second half without the scoreboard being troubled. Ireland were however on the front foot entering the last 10 minutes and the Scots were getting jittery as they changed the game – mainly from inside their own half.
The Irish scrum was really turning the screw and won a penalty on 71 minutes from the set piece. Captain O’Gara gave the ball to Sexton – for what must have been a difficult for the Cork man with Sexton kicking a cracking three pointer.
Ireland 25-14 Scotland on 72 minutes
30 seconds after the restart; Kearney went on a fantastically exciting 30 metre break before offloading to Earls who chipped ahead into the Scottish in-goal area. When seeming likely to score; Earls was pulled back by Max Evans which resulted in a yellow card for the Scottish winger though the penalty try was correctly decided against because the Scots had men covering.
With Scotland finishing the game with one man less; that was that really as far as the game as a contest was concerned with Ireland home and dry six minutes from the end of the 80. Ireland put the icing on the cake three minutes from time with Fergus McFadden getting the ball down onto the outside fleck of paint of the try-line after a series of scrums.
FULL-TIME: Ireland 32 – 14 Scotland
Ireland showed great stamina following a six day turnaround from an as ever bruising clash with France in Paris. It augurs well ahead of a Paddy’s Clash with the Oldest Enemy at Twickenham next Saturday. There will be no Championship at stake (as England are sure to lose to France on Sunday); but the sight of the Red Rose will be sure to get the gander up for all in green. There is also the small matter of world ranking points for the Rugby World Cup 2015 draw which will be held in November.