Ireland remained on course for a Six Nations Grand Slam after overcoming stiff Scottish resistance and a series of injuries to win 22-7 at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Johnny Sexton’s seven points with the boot took him level with Ronan O’Gara as the all-time top scorer in the Six Nations, while Mack Hansen, James Lowe and Jack Conan scored tries as Scotland were denied a first Triple Crown since 1990.
Ireland still have work to do just to win the title, though, as failure to land a bonus point for the first time in this year’s Championship means they need to beat England in Dublin on Saturday to ensure they cannot be caught by France.
“It was a monumental effort but that’s what these boys expect of each other. They’ve earned the right to take it to the last weekend.” said Ireland boss Andy Farrell who saw Caelan Doris, Iain Henderson, Dan Sheehan, Garry Ringrose and Ronan Kelleher forced off injured.
“We’ll go again, we’ll have a good squad. If we get any more injuries in the week we might have to have a look at Old Belvedere under-12s,” he joked.
“We’ll lick our wounds and go again. England will be dangerous, but it’ll be one hell of a weekend on St Patrick’s Day.”
Scotland got off to their best ever start in the Six Nations with victories over England and Wales, but have now come unstuck against the top two ranked teams in the world after also losing to France two weeks ago.
“I’d rather talk about the first half than the second half, because the second half was disappointing,” said Scotland boss Gregor Townsend.
“We weren’t accurate enough. Ireland grew in confidence and were clearly the better team in the second half.”
Scotland let off
The hosts escaped a nightmare start on a technicality as a wayward lineout on their own line allowed Sheehan to power over for what seemed to be the game’s first try.
However, Scotland had not used the same ball for the restart, meaning the lineout was retaken.
Ireland were soon camped back on the Scottish line but only came away with three points as Sexton kicked over a penalty from close range.
Scotland were clinical with their first period of possession in Irish territory as swift hands from Sione Tuipulotu fed Huw Jones to run in his fourth try of the Championships under the posts. Finn Russell added the conversion.
Ireland did not trail for long thanks to a brilliant finish from Hansen to touch down in the corner from Hugo Keenan’s looping pass just before he was forced into touch by Duhan van der Merwe.
A scintillating first 40 minutes gave way to a scrappy start to the second with neither side able to sustain attacking momentum.
However, Ireland pulled away in the final half hour.
Hansen’s leap and catch to meet Jamison Gibson-Park’s box kick set up a concerted spell of pressure before Lowe wriggled clear to finish in the corner.
Sexton kicked the conversion and also added the extras after Conan was released by Hansen’s pass to score Ireland’s third try to equal his predecessor O’Gara on 557 Six Nations points.
Farrell then replaced his skipper to potentially save the record-breaking moment for what should be a weekend of celebration when England, thrashed 53-10 by France on Saturday, visit the Aviva.
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