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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 21 November, 2018
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Impressive Zebo helps Schmidt's Ireland to hard-fought win over Scotland

The Irish performance was a scrappy one as they showed signs of summer rust.

Ireland 28

Scotland 22

JOE SCHMIDT’S IRELAND delivered a scrappy performance against Vern Cotter’s Scotland as they secured a second win from two games in their World Cup warm-up schedule, scoring four tries but showing signs of rustiness.

Luke Fitzgerald celebrates his try with Simon Zebo Man of the match Simon Zebo celebrates with fellow tryscorer Luke Fitzgerald. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There were a host of disappointing elements in Ireland’s display, none more so than missed tackles, some poor passing and a generally high error count, but the Sean O’Brien-captained side finished relatively strongly against the high-tempo Scots.

Chris Henry, Sean Cronin, Simon Zebo and Luke Fitzgerald all crossed for tries, while O’Brien was a constant menace at the breakdown, winning at least four turnovers of Scottish possession.

Jack Conan was strong in the back row as he won his first cap, while Zebo was justifiably named man of the match for an excellent showing in the 15 shirt. For other starters such as Gordon D’Arcy, Dan Tuohy and Isaac Boss, this looked like a missed opportunity.

The performance leaves Ireland with much to work on over the coming fortnight before they send out an improved XV against Wales in Dublin, but then that constant search for improvement is a way life for Schmidt’s Ireland.

Ireland’s opening try stemmed back to one of O’Brien’s turnover penalties, this effort cleverly assisted by debutant Conan.

After Madigan found the corner, Henry started a multi-phase attack that was largely limited to one-out carriers playing short off Isaac Boss close to the ruck, with Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne and Zebo among those putting their hands up to charge forward.

Henry’s power took him over from close-range with Kilcoyne leeching on to make sure, before Ian Madigan converted from out on the left.

Chris Henry celebrates his try with Dan Tuohy Dan Tuohy congratulates Chris Henry on scoring his third try for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

O’Brien continued to pose a major breakdown threat to Ireland thereafter, but Cotter’s side grew as Ireland missed a couple more opportunities in the Scotland 22. The intelligent scrum-half and captain Henry Pyrgos was alive to any hint of space at the fringes, while Greig Tonks varied play by moving the ball to wider channels.

Ireland’s error count was restrictive too and a botched lineout move in the Scotland half allowed Cotter’s men the platform to equalise. Back in Irish territory, they turned up the pace of their ruck ball with some superb clearing out led by Grant Gilchrist.

Abrasive number eight Dave Denton barrelled through Mike Ross’ tackle attempt to ensure an overlap in a narrow right-handed channel, with Ruaridh Jackson and Richie Vernon smoothly freeing flanker Blair Cowan to score.

Les Kiss won’t have been happy, with Peter Horne converting from close to the right touchline for 7-7. A Luke Fitzgerald knock-on ended Ireland’s next attacking chance, Scotland countering to draw a penalty from Kilcoyne for a late shoulder.

However, Horne missed to the right of the posts from around 40 metres out and the teams headed into the break level.

Schmidt’s men needed a strong start to the second period after that sloppy first 40, but instead Scotland scored another try within four minutes of the restart.

Missed tackles from Tuohy and Madigan stressed the Ireland defence inside their 22, before Pyrgos squeezed between Ross and Conan to score. Horne’s conversion was wide.

Simon Zebo celebrates scoring his sides 3rd try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was a moment of class from the least experienced member of Ireland’s team that sparked their attack soon after, Leinster man Conan stepping inside one defender before offloading to Henry inside. Kilcoyne followed up with a destructive run up the middle.

Scotland slapped down a pass on the outside left edge, a penalty followed and when Ireland mauled from the left corner, Cronin cleverly darted off the tail to dot down. Madigan again added the extra two points.

Paul O’Connell entered the fray in the 55th minute and appeared to inject immediate intensity, hammering into the tackle and flinging his own teammates forward in attack.

Back on the front foot, Madigan got closer to the gainline and produced two wonderful inside passes to create the third try. First he hit Dave Kearney – the Leinster wing’s first touch after coming on for a quiet Tommy Bowe – then on the very next phase Madigan sent Zebo galloping in to score under the posts.

Another conversion looked to finally have Ireland in some control, but still they produced errors. Fitzgerald failed to find touch with a clearance kick and Scotland punished the mistake severely, Tim Visser offloading for Horne to score on the counter attack.

Jackson took over the kicking duties – Horne having scored with a penalty in the 59th minute – and sent Scotland 22-21 in front with 15 minutes remaining, but Ireland had another strong response. Madigan fired a superb cross-field kick to the left of Scotland’s defence, finding Fitzgerald running onto the ball to score in the 70th minute.

Another conversion from the Ireland out-half put them out to 28-22, but Madigan missed with a penalty five minutes from time that might have eased nerves somewhat. 

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Chris Henry, Sean Cronin, Simon Zebo, Luke Fitzgerald

Conversions: Ian Madigan (4 from 4)

Penalties: Ian Madigan (0 from 1)

Scotland scorers:

Tries: Blair Cowan, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne

Conversions: Peter Horne (1 from 2), Ruaridh Jackson (1 from 1)

Penalties: Peter Horne (1 from 2)

IRELAND: Simon Zebo (Paddy Jackson ’78); Tommy Bowe (Dave Kearney ’60), Jared Payne, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss (Eoin Reddan ’67); Dave Kilcoyne (Michael Bent ’60), Sean Cronin (Richardt Strauss ’60), Mike Ross (Nathan White ’52); Devin Toner, Dan Tuohy (Paul O’Connell ’55); Jack Conan (Jordi Murphy ’64), Chris Henry, Sean O’Brien (capt.).

SCOTLAND: Ruaridh Jackson; Sean Lamont, Richie Vernon (Matt Scott ’60), Peter Horne, Tim Visser; Greig Tonks, Henry Pyrgos (capt.) (Sam Hidalgo-Clyne ’66); Ryan Grant (Gordon Reid ’45), Fraser Brown (Ross Ford ’52), Jon Welsh (Mike Cusack ’47); Jim Hamilton (Rob Harley ’55), Grant Gilchrist; Blair Cowan (John Barclay ’58), Hugh Blake, Dave Denton.

Replacement not used: Duncan Weir.

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère.

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Murray Kinsella

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