Up and Running

Schmidt's Ireland dominant as they lay down World Cup marker against Scots

A bonus-point win in front of the Green Army was the perfect start in Japan.

Ireland 27

Scotland 3

IRELAND’S FANS WERE drenched by the end of it but those present in Yokohama to watch Joe Schmidt’s side kick off their World Cup campaign in dominant fashion won’t care one jot.

They were there to witness Ireland dismantle Gregor Townsend’s Scotland, a clinical first-half leaving them 19-3 up at the break before superb wet-weather rugby allowed Schmidt’s men to close out a bonus-point victory out in emphatic fashion, keeping the Scots tryless in the process.

tadhg-furlong-celebrates-scoring-their-third-try-supported-by-rory-best Ireland were dominant. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

With a raft of key players – the entire pack, for starters – having superb games, Ireland were individually too powerful and collectively too cohesive for Scotland to deal with.

Scrum-half Conor Murray back to his very best behind a pack that was magnificently effective and brutally physical, as Ireland moved into a promising position in Pool A ahead of their second fixture against hosts Japan in Shizuoka next Saturday. 

There were injury worries with Bundee Aki and Peter O’Mahony departing in the first-half, seemingly both head injuries which may leave them in a race against time to be fit given that six-day turnaround before facing Japan.

Johnny Sexton received treatment out on the pitch during the first half and handed over place-kicking duties to Conor Murray, but played on until the 58th minute before Schmidt was able to send on his bench – though captain Rory Best, who scored from a maul, finished the 80 in a superb performance.

Iain Henderson was immense for Ireland up front, leading an impressive lineout performance and making one key linebreak, while James Ryan alongside him in the second row was as brilliant as ever, scoring one of Ireland’s four tries. 

With Best, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong superb in the front row, Ireland dominated at the coalface, allowing Murray to kick strongly for Ireland. Man of the match CJ Stander was belligerent in contact from number eight, while Josh van der Flier worked as hard as always.

Jack Conan had good moments in two stints off the bench, while Munster man Chris Farrell made a real impact in replacing Aki after just 21 minutes.

andrew-conway-celebrates-scoring-their-fourth-try-with-conor-murray-and-jonathan-sexton Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

After all the pre-match talk, Andrew Conway and Jordan Larmour were excellent in the back three, the 22-year-old fullback dangerous in possession, assured under the high ball and composed defensively.

Conway, meanwhile, got a deserved second-half try and never stopped motoring around the pitch looking for work. The Munster flyer has more than earned another starting chance in this World Cup.

With Murray controlling most of Ireland’s play, Sexton didn’t have to be the dominant influence he sometimes is, but the 34-year-old looked sharp, while Garry Ringrose defended sublimely at outside centre.

Indeed, it was another good day for Ireland’s defence coach, Andy Farrell, following on from something similar in their final warm-up game against Wales.

The Irish defence simply shut Scotland down here, with the creative Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg deeply frustrated by Ireland’s work-rate, organisation and ability to scramble one the occasions they did look in trouble. 

All in all, this was thoroughly convincing stuff from Schmidt’s side, as they saw out a win with the Green Army blasting out The Fields of Athenry. Feel-good stuff indeed.

conor-murray-celebrates-james-ryan-scoring-their-first-try Conor Murray celebrates James Ryan's early opener. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland’s stunning start left them 14-0 up by the 15th minute. The first score stemmed from a poor Scotland exit kick, with Conway and Larmour diffusing it to send Schmidt’s side back on the attack.

Henderson rampaged between Scotland captain Stuart McInally and lock Grant Gilchrist for the crucial linebreak and though he was stopped five metres out by Stuart Hogg, Ireland patiently waited for their chance, Ryan hammering his way over the tryline with a latch from Cian Healy just after Larmour had been denied on a Sexton inside pass.

Sexton converted Ryan’s sixth-minute try before a second breakdown turnover from Bundee Aki – off the back of Garry Ringrose’s excellent tackle – allowed Ireland to attack again.

Consecutive penalty concessions from the Scots left Ireland with a short-range lineout in the left corner and after Henderson claimed Best’s throw at the front, their maul surged back down the blindside channell and carried the captain over to score their second try.

Sexton couldn’t convert and a dropped ball from Conway then gave Scotland a sniff in attack, which they duly turned into three points as Jack Conan – on as a blood replacement for Josh van der Flier – failed to roll clear of a tackle, with Greig Laidlaw firing over the three points.

Ireland lost Aki to a head injury in the 21st minute, meaning Chris Farrell entered the fray and the Munster man made a swift impact, pressuring Russell into a forced pass that went to ground, with Conway nudging the ball deep into the Scottish 22, where it bounced off the post before Hogg scooped it up, Conway hammering him back over his own tryline.

rory-best-scores-their-second-try Rory Best scored Ireland's second try. Craig Mercer / INPHO Craig Mercer / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland made it 3/3 with their visits to the Scotland 22 in ruthless fashion off the ensuing five-metre scrum, Stander and O’Mahony making big carries before Furlong blasted over with a helping hand from Best. 

With Sexton receiving treatment, scrum-half Murray converted for 19-3. Ireland lost a second player to an apparent head injury in the process of scoring, however, with Conan replacing O’Mahony in the back row. 

Stander produced a big linebreak for Ireland soon after, sneaking through on the fringe of a ruck but Ireland finally failed in the Scotland 22 as Allan Dell jackaled to help win the defensive penalty.

Just as the rain finally began to fall, Stockdale smashed Stuart Hogg as the Scots looked to go wide on the resulting attack, forcing a knock-on, then the left wing chipped and gathered as Ireland went down the shortside off their scrum, only for Scotland to counter-ruck for another turnover.  

Townsend’s side lost key man Hamish Watson to an horrific-looking knee injury as he was smashed by Cian Healy and Furlong at ruck time in the closing minutes of the half, the stretcher being required to help him off the pitch.

A powerful scrum penalty gave Ireland one final scoring chance in the opening half but Murray couldn’t convert the opportunity from 40 metres out, his effort slipping wide left.

Still, a 19-3 half-time lead was better than any Ireland fan would have hoped for.

jordan-larmour-with-duncan-taylor Jordan Larmour impressed at fullback. Craig Mercer / INPHO Craig Mercer / INPHO / INPHO

Scotland fullback Hogg began to nudge grubbers in behind Ireland as they searched for a way back into the contest, the second of them leading to a spell of 22 pressure that ended with John Barclay spilling the ball forward amidst what was now a downpour. 

With that rain making handling very difficult, Ireland began to take to the skies with their possession, yielding major success for the bonus-point try. 

Murray hung a box kick over Scotland number eight Ryan Wilson and a hungry chase from Conway saw him leap to bat the ball back to Larmour, before Conway worked hard back to his right wing and scored on the very next phase.

Murray’s accurate pass found Conway and he stepped inside Russell and finished through Gilchrist’s despairing dive. Murray couldn’t convert just before himself and Sexton joined Iain Henderson in putting his feet up for the final quarter.

Ireland continued to come forward at the Scots, a clever grubber from sub out-half Jack Carty allowed Farrell to chase and gather before a sublime behind-the-back pass to Luke McGrath, only for his pass to Stockdale to go to ground.

Carty tagged on a penalty heading towards the closing 10 minutes to push Ireland 27-3 in front, although they soon lost replacement Tadhg Beirne to the sin bin as he killed the ball at a breakdown in Ireland’s 22 after Hogg had burst forward.

Scotland couldn’t capitalise, however, turning the ball over metres out from Ireland’s tryline, Conan coming away with possession. 

Despite the numerical advantage, Scotland couldn’t breach the Irish defence and so ended a superb opening night for Ireland. 

Ireland scorers:

Tries: James Ryan, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Conway

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [1 from 2], Conor Murray [1 from 2]

Penalties: Jack Carty [1 from 1], Conor Murray [0 from 1]

Scotland scorers:

Penalties: Greig Laidlaw [1 from 1]

IRELAND: Jordan Larmour; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki (Chris Farrell ’21), Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (Jack Carty ’58), Conor Murray (Luke McGrath ’58); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’50), Rory Best (captain), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’50); Iain Henderson (Tadhg Beirne ’58), James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony (Jack Conan ’27), Josh van der Flier (blood bin – Jack Conan ’14 to ’22) (Niall Scannell ’74), CJ Stander.

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour (Darcy Graham ’58), Duncan Taylor (Chris Harris ’65), Sam Johnson, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (Ali Price ’62); Allan Dell (Gordon Reid ’62), Stuart McInally (captain), Willem Nel (Simon Berghan ’53); Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray (Scott Cummings ’65); John Barclay (Blade Thomson ’53), Hamish Watson (Fraser Brown ’38), Ryan Wilson.

Attendance: 63,731.

Referee: Wayne Barnes [England]. 

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