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Schmidt's Ireland get Six Nations bid going with three-try win in Scotland

It wasn’t perfect from Rory Best and his team, but Ireland returned to winning ways.

Scotland 13

Ireland 22

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

TASKED WITH PLAYING 67 minutes off the bench, Joey Carbery delivered for Ireland after a shaky start in a performance that was symbolic of the collective effort from Joe Schmidt’s team.

There was some of the good stuff, but plenty of the bad too.

In the end, a three-try win means Ireland’s bid to retain their Six Nations title is up and running at the second time of asking, albeit in stuttering fashion, with Schmidt’s side responding to last weekend’s defeat to England by notching four match points. 

Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try Jacob Stockdale celebrates his first-half try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Both sides lost key players in the opening half, with Scotland conceding a try just after Stuart Hogg had departed with a shoulder injury, and Ireland’s Johnny Sexton being replaced by Carbery in the 23rd minute after taking a battering.

The Leinster out-half was smashed just after his pass on a number of occasions and needed treatment more than once before finally accepting that this body could take no more and making way for Carbery.

The Munster out-half started by being intercepted by Finn Russell for Scotland’s only try of the game, but he made amends later with a sharp break and brilliant pass to tee up Keith Earls for Ireland’s third.

A characteristic chip from Jacob Stockdale led to a Scottish error for Ireland’s opening score through Conor Murray, before the Ulster wing scored his 13th try in 16 Tests on the end of a stunning Joe Schmidt special from set-piece.

A glorious rendition of Flower of Scotland had brought goosebumps to arms around Murrayfield and though Scotland and the mercurial Finn Russell showed plenty of promise again, they lacked the steely edge to take advantage against an Ireland team that is still short of its best.

Poor decisions at key times and handling errors galore meant the Scots couldn’t get the landmark win they felt they were capable of here.

For Ireland, the outstanding Stockdale, the returning Sean O’Brien and Rob Kearney had some strong moments, while Chris Farrell at outside centre was reliable and powerful in contact. 

Bundee Aki is tackled by Finn Russell Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland will welcome the upcoming rest weekend and a chance to take stock. It was far from a classic Six Nations encounter in Edinburgh, but Schmidt’s men have a win and will move on with the intention of getting better from here. 

Ireland’s start was a concern for the second week in a row as they exited their half poorly through Murray’s off-key kicking, inviting the Scots to attack.

Josh Strauss ran over Bundee Aki lifted the home crowd, Hogg broke in midfield inside Tadhg Furlong, while Sexton high-tackled Ryan Wilson for a penalty that allowed Scotland within five metres of the Irish tryline.

Given their sluggishness, Schmidt would have been relieved to trail only 3-0 after seven minutes, with Aki giving up a ruck penalty under the sticks that Russell slotted.

Ireland’s attack didn’t take as long to start firing, with some powerful ball-carrying near the halfway line leading to Sexton skip-passing beautifully to Stockdale on the left touchline, the Ulsterman chipping ahead.

With Farrell bearing down on the chase, the retreating Tommy Seymour threw a pass back inside and just over Sean Maitland’s head, allowing Murray to sweep onto the ball and score Ireland’s response.

Sexton, having been treated extensively, got up and missed the straightforward conversion, leaving Ireland leading by two.

Their second try, in the 17th minute, was a pure Schmidt special. Farrell carried directly in midfield off a left-hand side lineout near halfway, before Murray hit Peter O’Mahony coming around the corner.

Jacob Stockdale scores his sides second try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With Aki showing outside O’Mahony, the Cork man instead left a switch pass up for Sexton, who in turn fired an inside pass to Stockdale sneaking up on the right side of the ruck to burst clean through and scorch home for a stunning try, converted by Murray.

Blair Kinghorn – on for the injured Hogg – showed his class by beating the struggling Sexton one-on-one with his first touch, leading to O’Mahony giving up a blatant penalty five metres from the Irish tryline by killing the ruck ball.

Referee Romain Poite didn’t even consider a card and Scotland then bizarrely opted to tap the penalty, with O’Mahony’s linespeed forcing a Strauss knock-on.

Russell’s influence was growing, however, and only six minutes after Joey Carbery had replaced the battered Sexton, the Scotland out-half intercepted Carbery’s pass just inside the Scotland half.

Earls did superbly to track back and tackle Russell just short of the Irish tryline but the Scotland playmaker was calm in rewarding Sam Johnson’s brilliant support play with a deft offload for the try, converted by Laidlaw.

Another error from Carbery – sliding into a bobbling ball with his knees and forcing Earls to carry into touch five metres from the Irish line – lead to a final bout of Scottish pressure in the opening half.

Initially, James Ryan picked off the close-range lineout but Best tapped it down behind Ireland’s tryline to give the Scots a scrum.

Sam Johnson celebrates his try with Huw Jones, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Massive hits from Jack Conan and Earls gave Ireland a strong start to a superb 25-phase passage of defence, however, with Stockdale producing a brilliant try-saving tackle on Seymour when space finally showed wide on Scotland’s right.

A phase later, Scotland dropped the ball and allowed Ireland into the break with a 12-10 lead.

The Scots’ indiscipline – Jonny Gray ruck penalty, Rob Harley high tackle, a scrum infringement – gave Ireland ideal access to their 22 in the opening 15 minutes of the second half but Schmidt’s men were sloppy.

Kearney didn’t pass to Stockdale in space wide on the left, Murray had a loose pass to allow the impressive Jamie Ritchie to pounce for a turnover penalty, and Tadhg Furlong was stripped by Stuart McInally in the tackle.

But they continued to flood forward, with Kearney making a break on the left before Carbery was forced to turn and gather a loose O’Brien pass inside the Ireland half.

He regathered and burst through a weak tackle from Allan Dell and Rob Harley, sprinting into the Scotland 22 and calmly floating a beautiful pass to Earls on the right for the Munster man to round in under the posts, Carbery converting his own score for 19-10 in the 57th minute.

Keith Earls scores their third try despite Blair Kinghorn Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Scotland, despite a high error count in possession, battled back and when Aki was penalised for attempting to steal at the breakdown while off his feet, Laidlaw fired over three points off the tee from wide on the left to bring his team back to within six points.

A dropped ball from Kinghorn under a poor Murray box kick gave Ireland another attacking chance, and 27 phases later the Scots failed to roll away from a tackle, resulting in Carbery opening the scoreboard breathing space back out at 22-13.

With Dave Kilcoyne making a strong impact off the bench, Ireland saw it out from there. 

Scotland scorers:

Tries: Sam Johnson

Conversions: Greig Laidlaw [1 from 1]

Penalties: Greig Laidlaw [2 from 2]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Conor Murray, Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls

Conversions: Conor Murray [1 from 1], Joey Carbery [1 from 1], Johnny Sexton [0 from 1]

Penalties: Joey Carbery [1 from 1]

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (Blair Kinghorn ’17); Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson (Peter Horne ’64), Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain) (Ali Price ’69); Allan Dell (Jamie Bhatti ’69), Stuart McInally (Fraser Brown ’64), Simon Berghan (D’arcy Rae ’69); Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray; Ryan Wilson (Rob Harley ‘HT), Jamie Ritchie (blood bin – Rob Harley ’35 to ’40), Josh Strauss.

Replacement not used: Ben Toolis.

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale (Jordan Larmour ’72); Johnny Sexton (Joey Carbery ’23), Conor Murray (John Cooney ’77); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’58), Rory Best (captain) (Sean Cronin ’72), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’68); Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane ’68), James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Seán O’Brien (Josh van der Flier ’64), Jack Conan.

Referee: Romain Poite [FFR].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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