Scotland have beaten Ireland 27-22 to record a their first opening weekend victory in the Six Nations since 2006.
Tries from Stuart Hogg (2) and Alex Dunbar gave Scotland the victory and got Scotland off to the perfect start in the 2017 Six Nations.
The match started off with a mixture of huge defence and nervy series of errors from Scotland, most notably a knock on from Huw Jones with an overlap begging. However it was clear that the men in blue had come out to play and wanted to spread the ball quickly. Every Irish runner was knocked back and the Scottish players looked more focussed and intense than they have done for years.
They didn’t have it all their own way though, the first big test of the young front row came straight after the Jones knock on and Fagerson and Del were found wanting with a penalty ensuing. This forward pressure was to become a theme, with the Irish side winning penalty upon penalty at scrum time.
In spite of this pressure, and with just 9 minutes on the clock, Scotland found themselves camped on the Irish line. It was clear the forwards weren’t going to muscle their way over so Greig Laidlaw gave it to Finn Russell who threw a massive miss pass which was almost intercepted, but thankfully it bouncing up into the waiting arms of Stuart Hogg who strolled over for the opening try of the Championship. The try was then duly converted by Laidlaw to make the score 7-0 to the bravehearts.
The Irish then tried to turn on the pressure with a series of big drives and intense pressure. All were repelled and Scotland once again found themselves in the Irish half with fast ball and numbers available. Quick hands from Russell and Jones saw Hogg get his hands on the ball, dummy and slip through to score his second. Laidlaw converted again to make it 14-0.
Scotland had their tails up and looked to press the advantage but this Ireland team is canny and took the ball tight making ground through drive after drive and phase after phase. The Scottish defence looked to be holding strong before Jackson spread it wide putting Earls over in the corner. Jackson missed the conversion, but it was clear Scotland weren’t going to have it all their own way.
We didn’t have to wait long for the riposte from Scotland and it came on the 30 minute mark. Great pressure gave Scotland a line out on the Irish line and, unbeknownst to the Irish forwards, centre Dunbar was standing in the line and got a quick ball from Ford to speed through and score. Laidlaw converted to make it 21-5 to Scotland. Shortly after Paddy Jackson got a penalty to make it 21-8.
Despite big pressure from both side in the closing minutes, the score remained the same for the interval.
HALF TIME SCORE: SCOTLAND 21-5 IRELAND.
The second half was almost the mirror opposite of the first with Ireland having all the pressure and making big inroads through a tired looking Scottish defence.
It didn’t take too long for the wall of green to envelope the Scots and, on the 47th minute, Ian Henderson blasted over to score their second try. This time Jackson was on target and the lead narrowed. Suddenly Ireland were within a score at 21-15.
The pressure didn’t abate and Ireland continued to hammer away. Every hit seemed to sap the Scottish defence further, yet the men in blue still held on by their fingernails. Sean Maitland, quiet in attack, made up for it with two try saving tackles out wide. The frustration on the Irish faces was clear.
Eventually the pressure had to tell though and Ireland scored again through Paddy Jackson, who then converted his own score. This put Ireland in front with all the momentum. Things weren’t looking good for Scotland and after the restart the Irish continued to drive deep into the blue defence.
The cliched Scottish 2nd half capitulation looked certain with all the pundits giving the game to Ireland. A few Scottish players went down (not surprising considering they’d made 187 tackles to 93, but Cotter was quick to replace the flagging troops.
The crowd hadn’t got the memo of Scotland’s certain demise and huge renditions of Flower of Scotland and Loch Lomond rang out through the stadium to galvanise the players. They responded with aplomb driving towards the Irish line before winning a kickable penalty. Laidlaw lined up and duly put it through the middle. Scotland had a slender lead of 24-22.
Despite a few scares, the Scottish players regained the ball and got down into the Irish corner once again winning a penalty. They spurned a chance at goal to go for the bonus point but were rebuffed. Thankfully the chance came again with just 60 seconds left on the clock. Laidlaw then took every one of the allowed 60 to take his kick, which he riffled through the middle to jubilant celebrations from the fans at Murrayfield as the referee blew the final whistle.
FINAL SCORE: SCOTLAND 27-22 IRELAND.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw lifts the quaich after the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield Stadium on February 4, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Get premium, high resolution news photos at Getty Images
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Credit: 6 Nations Rugby