Ireland cruised into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals by demolishing Scotland 36-14 in a clinical performance in their final Pool B match at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Hugo Keenan scored two of Ireland’s six tries against a Scottish side that slid to its ninth successive defeat at the hands of the Irish.
The record-extending 17th Test victory pitches Ireland into a repeat of the 2019 quarter-final with three-time champions New Zealand next Saturday. The All Blacks won that round.
Latecomers would have missed the lightning start made by the Irish that gave the tens of thousands of fans from Ireland just the start they desired in Paris.
James Lowe went over in the left-hand corner in the second minute, Garry Ringrose creating it by piercing the Scottish defence, but Johnny Sexton failed to convert.
The Scottish came back hard but the Irish defence held firm and won a penalty allowing them to clear the danger.
The Irish were conceding a fair share of penalties under pressure but once again, despite the Scots having a huge amount of possession, the Irish repelled them and cleared it.
The rub of the green was going all Ireland’s way.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was out of his seat in a fury when a touch was not called as Ireland fullback Keenan looked to have his foot on the line when he caught a clearance.
The Irish then missed a glorious chance to score a second try when under pressure from Jamie Ritchie Mack Hansen fumbled the pass from Peter O’Mahony with the tryline metres away.
The Scots, though, suffered a serious loss as Ritchie was injured in the hit on Hansen and had to go off in the 19th minute holding his arm.
His departure was the second within the first quarter for the Scots — fullback Blair Kinghorn’s 50th appearance had only lasted a matter of minutes due to a knock to the head.
The Irish too lost Hansen as a result of the Ritchie hit as he went for a Head Injury Assessment — he returned but not for long as he walked off feeling his leg.
The Irish showed the Scots how to take your chances with a beautiful move, with Sexton involved twice, and again Ringrose providing the killer pass feeding Keenan, going in in the left-hand corner.
Sexton made no mistake with the conversion for 12-0 as the game approached the half-hour mark.
The task facing the Scots became all but insurmountable when Iain Henderson marked his return to the starting XV by going over from close range and Sexton converted for 19-0.
Australian referee Nic Berry proved a better defender than the Scots as an Irish pass hit him in the midriff as they pressed close to the line.
The Irish were rampant, though, and went over for another try.
Sexton’s long pass found Keenan, who went over for his second of the match and secured the Irish the bonus point and Sexton converted to make it 26-0 at half-time.
Frayed tempers –
Tempers boiled over early in the second-half between two teams who have a history of animosity between them.
Sexton and Ollie Smith had words and then the Scottish replacement fullback put his leg out as the Ireland captain walked past, provoking a free for all.
Sexton, called to explain himself, told Berry “small push by me”.
Smith was sin-binned, leaving the pitch with a wry smile on his lips.
Hooker Dan Sheehan had ended up over an advertising hoarding pushed by burly prop Pierre Schoeman—but minutes later he was celebrating scoring Ireland’s fifth try.
Sexton failed to convert and that was his job done as he went off, with Ireland 31-0 up, to a thunderous reception for a valuable rest ahead of next week’s challenging quarter-final.
The Irish did not let up, Ringrose deservedly getting a try of his own — his sizeable centre partner Bundee Aki jumping into his arms.
The conversion attempt by Jack Crowley, who had set up the try with a delightful crossfield kick, hit a post leaving the Irish 36-0 up.
The Scots went over for two consolation tries but it was way too late and minutes later it was Ireland’s unofficial anthem “Zombie” by the Cranberries ringing round the stadium.
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