Ireland survive Scottish fightback

Ireland scored a narrow 21-18 win over Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

No 8 Jamie Heaslip was huge for the visitors, scoring their first try and setting up a second through a powerful drive from the back of the scrum. The Irish forwards bossed the Scots at the set-piece, and while they weren’t always accurate at the breakdown, they did enough to dominate the first half.

Credit must go to Ireland flyhalf Ronan O’Gara for kicking his team into attacking positions. O’Gara probed for territory and exposed the poor positional play of the Scottish back three on several occasions, and this in turn allowed the imposing Ireland lineout to pressure their counterparts. It was a simple but effective formula that ensured Ireland went to the break with a 14-9 lead.

The hosts stayed in the game thanks to the boot of Chris Paterson. While they battled to sustain an attack deep within Ireland’s 22, they did benefit from some over-zealous Irish defending.

Their set-piece woes continued into the second stanza, and referee Nigel Owens eventually decided to yellow-card prop Allan Jacobsen for repeated infringements. Scotland lifted their defensive standards during the period of sanction, but could not resist a relentless Irish onslaught for long. O’Gara eventually rounded off a move sparked by flanker Sean O’Brien, and at 21-9, the result seemed assured.

But Ireland continued to offer Scotland opportunities. Dan Parks came off the bench to kick two important penalties and set up a dramatic finish. Suddenly Ireland looked a team under pressure. The Scotland set-piece had discovered a new edge, and their attack a fresh purpose.

A controlled period on attack culminated in a 70th minute drop-goal by Parks to bring Scotland within three points. Unfortunately, the same handling and breakdown errors continued to cost them, and they couldn’t finish subsequent attacking surges.

Scotland – Penalties: Chris Paterson (3), Dan Parks (2), Drop-goal: Parks.
Ireland – Tries: Jamie Heaslip, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara. Conversions: O’Gara (3).