# benchmark
Four-try Ireland move into strong Six Nations position before England face France
Joe Schmidt’s men scored four tries in a hugely entertaining game at Murrayfield.

Scotland 10

Ireland 40

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

JOE SCHMIDT’S IRELAND have left the Six Nations ball in England’s court.

Ireland ran in four tries in a convincing 40-10 win over Scotland to leave themselves in a strong position at the head of the championship table before Stuart Lancaster’s side kick off against France at 17.00.

Sean O'Brien makes a break Cathal Noonan / INPHO Sean O'Brien was superb for Joe Schmidt's side. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Man of the match Sean O’Brien scored two tries for Ireland at a sun-drenched Murrayfield, while the superb Jared Payne and captain Paul O’Connell also crossed for Schmidt’s side. Out-half Johnny Sexton added 18 points off the tee, while replacement Ian Madigan also fired over a conversion.

A stunning covering tackle by Jamie Heaslip on Stuart Hogg to force a Scotland knock-on over the tryline in the closing minutes may prove equally as important as Ireland left their points difference at +63.

England head into their meeting with les Bleus on +37.

It all means Lancaster’s men must beat the French by 26 points, at which point they would win the title based on their superior try count.

Ireland showed a huge amount of ambition with ball in hand in Edinburgh as they ran from their own 22, struck with clever starter plays and won a huge amount of gainline through their forward carriers.

The scrum was a particular strength as Cian Healy prospered for 54 minutes, while Ireland’s lineout was important too, if imperfect. Ireland might have one or two nagging regrets, but in truth they left everything on the Murrayfield turf.

Ireland had exactly the start they would have hoped for, a Scotland knock-on at maul time providing the scrum platform for Sexton to run one of his classic loop plays from right to left and put Tommy Bowe into space.

The Ulster wing fed Henshaw, who powered close to the tryline wide on the left, before Ireland hammered through the phases, Peter O’Mahony going close twice. A captain’s actions were needed to seal this particular deal, Paul O’Connell barrelling over from close-range.

Paul O'Connell scores a try Cathal Noonan / INPHO Captain Paul O'Connell gets Ireland off to the perfect start. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Referee Jerome Garces went to his TMO to confirm Mike Ross had not blocked in front of O’Connell, before Sexton slotted the extra two points for a 7-0 Ireland lead with less than five minutes gone.

Schmidt’s side uncharacteristically looked to run the ball out of their own 22, Henshaw and Rob Kearney’s passing allowing Fitzgerald a gallop up the left soon after the first try, but the Leinster man offloaded loosely.

It was Fitzgerald’s excellent kick chase that was at the stem of Ireland’s next score though, the returning 27-year-old blocked off the ball for a penalty. The visitors kicked into Scotland’s half, drew a maul penalty for collapsing and moved 10-0 ahead.

Another break from deep followed, Henshaw’s gorgeous grubber being scooped up and then kicked again by Fitzgerald. But Scotland drew breath and got a foothold in the game courtesy of a Peter O’Mahony ruck penalty, with captain Greig Laidlaw kicking the three.

Rory Best had better success on the deck with a turnover penalty soon after, as Ireland’s willingness to pass the ball into wider channels stood out.

After Sexton and the backs had laid the foundations for try number one with their starter play, the Irish pack stepped up impressively for the second. Best found Toner at the tail of a lineout 10 metres out from Scotland’s line, and the second row subtly transferred to O’Brien after the openside had lifted him at the tail.

The pre-planned move worked ideally as O’Brien burst into a gap in Scotland’s lineout alignment and hitched himself through the covering tackle of Dougie Fife to score to the left of the posts. Sexton was on target again with the conversion.

Sean O'Brien scores their second try Dan Sheridan / INPHO Sean O'Brien scored from a clever Ireland lineout play. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Following that lineout success, it was a set-piece malfunction that allowed Scotland to build their first try, finished by Finn Russell. A silly delay at lineout time saw Garces award the Scots a freekick, from where Vern Cotter’s shifted the ball wide to the left.

Tommy Seymour grubbered behind Ireland’s frontline defence and then the ball bounced horribly in front of Rob Kearney and up into the chasing Stuart Hogg’s hands. The fullback offloaded to Seymour, who was hauled down by a desperate Kearney with the line begging.

Scotland kept their composure and passed to the left touchline, Adam Ashe drawing the last defender to send Russell haring over and around under the posts.

Hogg’s involvement in the try came just two minutes after he had saved a likely Ireland try under his own side’s sticks, intercepting a Tommy Bowe offload to Conor Murray after O’Brien had produced a muscular bust of the Scottish midfield.

Laidlaw’s conversion of Russell’s try brought a thrilling game back to 17-10.

The impressive Cian Healy milked a scrum penalty from replacements Scotland tighthead Geoff Cross for Sexton to hammer over his second penalty of the afternoon, but it was Scotland who finished the half in possession and threatening.

First Hogg though he had scored, but Garces spotted a Matt Scott knock-on just beforehand, and then Russell sent a delightful chip over Ireland’s advancing defence for Scott, but again the inside centre spilled forward.

Scotland and Ireland take to the pitch Cathal Noonan / INPHO Murrayfield was at capacity for an entertaining encounter. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Scotland’s lack of discipline early in the second half  was costly as they allowed Ireland to gain field position, go close with a mauling play and then failed to roll away after an O’Connell carry. Sexton made it a three-point punishment.

Ireland’s scrum was utterly dominant at this stage, the Scots disintegrating in the 44th minute to allow Ireland a foothold in their 22 again.

Another intelligent lineout play saw Henshaw break the gainline on first phase, from where Ireland set a maul and crept forward. Murray sniped close, before the ball was shifted to Sexton in midfield.

The out-half pumped a dummy pass to Kearney on the switch, before releasing to Payne on another switch line and the outside centre broke through a despairing tackle to cross under the posts.

With Sexton adding the extras, Ireland now held a 30-10 lead to draw themselves to within a single point of Wales’ points difference.

A magnificent Bowe catch from Murray’s box kick, followed by an O’Mahony break brought Ireland powering forward again, the increasingly ill-disciplined Scots conceding their latest penalty as Ross Ford had his hands all over Irish ruck ball.

It seemed Sexton would slot a straight-forward penalty, but his effort struck the right post and rebounded clear. The Racing Métro out-half missed again just three minute later, this time from further out after Geoff Cross was sin binned for offside.

Jared Payne celebrates his try with Jonathan Sexton Billy Stickland / INPHO Sexton and Payne combined for a second-half try. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

A threatening Bowe break up the right following Payne’s lovely offload preceded Sexton’s next penalty attempt, though the Ireland out-half regathered his composure to send Ireland 33-10 in the lead, two points ahead of the Scots.

Scotland countered, but Dave Denton spilled the ball two metres short of Ireland’s tryline after Payne and Kearney doubled up in the tackle.

Schmidt’s men continued to push hard in attack, building to a superb team try with eight minutes remaining. The maul got things rolling, Henshaw, O’Connell and Heaslip carrie hard, before that man O’Brien smashed over to the left of the posts.

Madigan, on for a cramping Sexton, added the conversion, before Scotland broke into Ireland’s 22 and Heaslip produced that wonderful saving tackle on Hogg beyond Ireland’s tryline.

Madigan had a kickable shot at goal with the last action of the game, but the effort was pulled to the left and wide.

We await England’s best attempt.

Scotland scorers:

Tries: Finn Russell

Conversions: Greig Laidlaw [1 from 1]

Penalties: Greig Laidlaw [1 from 1]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Paul O’Connell, Sean O’Brien [2], Jared Payne

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [3 from 3], Ian Madigan [1 from 1]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [4 from 6]

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg; Dougie Fife (blood sub – Tim Visser ’12 to ’22), Mark Bennett (Tim Visser ’71), Matt Scott (Greig Tonks ’70), Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (capt.) (Sam Hidalgo-Clyne ’58); Ryan Grant (Alasdair Dickinson ’32), Ross Ford (Fraser Brown ’53), Euan Murray (Geoff Cross ’12 – sin bin ’56); Jim Hamilton (Tim Swinson ’53), Jonny Gray; Adam Ashe (Rob Harley ’55), Blair Cowan, David Denton.

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Luke Fitzgerald; Johnny Sexton (Ian Madigan ’71), Conor Murray (Eoin Reddan ’80); Cian Healy (Jack McGrath ’54), Rory Best (Sean Cronin ’62), Mike Ross (Marty Moore ’46); Devin Toner (Iain Henderson ’62), Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien (Jordi Murphy ’73), Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements not used: Felix Jones.

Every moment is really special and every bit of playing time is precious

Connacht coach Pat Lam fined €8,000 for referee outburst

Your Voice
Readers Comments