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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# Silverware
Ireland claim Triple Crown by beating Scots as all eyes now turn towards Paris
Andy Farrell’s men must rely on England doing them a favour if they are to win the Six Nations title.

Ireland 26

Scotland 5

OVER TO YOU, Les Bleus.

As we write, Andy Farrell’s Ireland sit top of the Six Nations table after notching their fourth win in five games in this year’s championship as they dispatched Scotland with a bonus-point victory in Dublin to claim their first Triple Crown since 2018.

It’s a nice achievement and now all eyes turn towards Paris to see if France can seal their Grand Slam and take the title after a 12-year drought. Andy Farrell’s Ireland must rely on Eddie Jones’ England do to them a favour at Stade de France [KO 8pm, RTÉ] if they are to emerge from this Super Saturday as the Six Nations champions.

dan-sheehan-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try Ben Brady / INPHO Dan Sheehan celebrates his first-half try. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Fabien Galthié, Antoine Dupont and co. have been talking about the Grand Chelem all week. They will look to finish in style tonight.

Ireland got the job done in front of a full house at the Aviva Stadium to keep up their side of the bargain, but it wasn’t always as smooth as Farrell would have liked on the closing day of the championship.

Tries from Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Josh van der Flier, and Conor Murray, as well as three conversions from captain Johnny Sexton, were enough to secure the bonus point, with replacement scrum-half Murray crossing late on as Ireland kept their fans waiting. 

There were handling errors aplenty from Ireland along the way as toiled to put the Scots away, but there has to be a fair degree of satisfaction about a 21-point winning margin against Gregor Townsend’s side.

Ireland’s forwards did most of the damage as hooker Sheehan delivered an outstanding player-of-the-match showing. Van der Flier was as prominent as ever, Tadhg Furlong was muscular, and Tadhg Beirne teamed up well with Iain Henderson in the second row.

The wayward nature of the Scottish performance was best illustrated by captain Stuart Hogg opting not to pass back inside for what looked like a certain try in the 49th minute, when they might have rattled Ireland, and instead getting tackled into touch. 

Ireland claim the five match points and now France need to win against England to claim the title and Grand Slam.

jamison-gibson-park-cian-healy-and-dan-sheehan-celebrate-with-tadhg-furlong-after-he-won-a-penalty Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Tadhg Furlong after winning a turnover penalty for Ireland. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

It had looked ropy for Ireland early on as they made a poor start in sunny conditions in Dublin, giving up three linebreaks in the opening five minutes and counting themselves fortunate that Scotland couldn’t take advantage on the scoreboard.

First, Darcy Graham broke out of the Scotland 22 and soon after, scrum-half Ali Price darted down the left-hand shortside off a maul, only for George Turner to knock the ball on in the Irish 22. There was more relief when Sam Johnson threw a forward pass just after prop Pierre Schoeman’s burst from a midfield ruck following a Bundee Aki knock-on.

Ireland’s sloppiness continued as Caelan Doris was tackled into touch when they finally got some attacking possession and a minute later, James Lowe was stripped of the ball in midfield and Aki jumped offside to five the Scots a penalty.

Without a recognised frontline goal-kicker, they went down the left touchline but overthrew the lineout to hand Ireland another let-off.

Farrell’s men finally sparked into life with a big Jamison Gibson-Park break from his own half, chipping ahead only for Hogg to do well on the cover. Just after Beirne had knocked on an unsympathetic pass, there was a stroke of fortune for Ireland as Sexton was awarded a 50:22 kick even though the home side had passed the ball back into their own half.

They couldn’t directly take advantage as their maul was held up but Ireland did attack sharply off the goal-line drop-out, Furlong’s link pass to Sexton allowing Doris and Conan to get the ball wide to Lowe, with Scotland conceding a penalty for tackling off the ball in their scramble.

tadhg-beirne-is-tackled-by-matt-fagerson-and-ali-price Ben Brady / INPHO Tadhg Beirne was prominent for Ireland. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Lowe quick-tapped and won a second penalty for Scotland being offside and this time, Ireland went into the corner. Henderson took the lineout, the Irish maul made the initial progress, then with penalty advantage playing, Sheehan broke off to power through Blair Kinghorn and Zander Fagerson to score a try Sexton converted for 7-0.

Scotland’s error count rose in the ensuing minutes as both Graham and Price made back-to-back mistakes, inviting Ireland into the Scottish half. Farrell’s side went close with a clever Sexton chip ahead after he swung into the shortside off a maul but back row Rory Darge was able to gather the bouncing ball and the Scots clear.

They couldn’t keep Ireland out off the next lineout attack as Sheehan made a punishing carry infield off a maul, then Beirne, Healy and Sheehan again carried. Jack Conan went close with a one-out drive but it was Healy who finished, helped by a strong latch from Beirne, Henderson, and Sheehan.

Ireland were 14-0 to the good approaching the half-hour mark but they frustratingly welcomed Scotland back into the game, getting turned over at the ruck as they looked to run out of their own 22.

Graham burst up the right off that turnover and then popped up in midfield for another burst a few phases later, surging forward off Kinghorn’s inside pass. The Scottish forwards took over and Ireland would have been disappointed to get outmuscled as loosehead Schoeman drove under three defenders to reach out and score a TMO-confirmed try.

Kinghorn’s conversion attempt was poor and then Ireland had a final chance in the first half thanks to Furlong’s jackal turnover at the breakdown off his side’s restart.

pierre-schoeman-crashes-over-for-a-try Ken Sutton / INPHO Pierre Schoeman scored for the Scots coming towards half-time. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

However, Scotland lock Grant Gilchrist fought through the maul to hold up the ball – just as Maro Itoje did last weekend – and then Healy was penalised at the scrum, having earlier been praised by referee Wayne Barnes for his scrummaging. 

Ireland had to be content with a 14-5 half-time lead and they started the second half promisingly as Doris won a breakdown turnover penalty, then Gibson-Park quick-tapped to break from a second penalty a minute later, the scrum-half cleverly grubber kicking out to wing Mack Hansen who offloaded to keep the play alive. Ireland battered away in the Scottish 22 but then Gibson-Park’s grubber behind for Keenan had too much on it.

The home team flooded back at Scotland off the goal-line drop-out but Henderson was stripped of the ball and Ireland gave up a soft penalty to let the Scots out, following it up by conceding another at the lineout for contact in the air by Beirne.

Scotland looked a certainty to score in the 49th minute as a kick ricocheted fortuitously but Hogg incredibly failed to pass back inside to three unmarked team-mates and instead looked to score himself in the right corner, getting tackled into touch by Keenan. 

There was a brief TMO interlude to check on Schoeman potentially leading with the elbow into a Henderson tackle but Barnes was happy there was no foul play. Hogg arguably deserved a sin-binning for his failure to pass back inside though.

Ireland were soon threatening down the other end as Keenan’s pass sent Lowe into space down the left but his offload inside was knocked into touch by the retreating Scotland centre Chris Harris.

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tempers-flare-between-matt-fagerson-and-bundee-aki Ben Brady / INPHO Bundee Aki squares up with Matt Fagerson. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland won a penalty at the scrum and kicked it into the corner but Scotland went up at the tail of the lineout for a big steal by Sam Skinner. More frustration for Farrell.

They went down the left again after another scrum penalty, this one won by sub loosehead Dave Kilcoyne, but again they wasted the opportunity as Doris knocked-on Gibson-Park’s pass a couple of metres out from the tryline.

But the onslaught was relentless at this stage and finally the Scots cracked as van der Flier surged over from a couple of metres out off Gibson-Park’s pass as the pressure told, Sexton converting for 21-5 with 20 minutes left. 

Ireland became sloppy again and invited the Scots back into the game in the closing quarter, frustratingly failing to find the field position for the fourth score. Scotland pressured their line as the game ticked into the final 10 minutes but then went off their feet at the breakdown to let Ireland out.

Scotland replacement scrum-half Ben White was yellow-carded in the 78th minute as ‘The Fields’ rang out around Lansdowne Road and Ireland went into the corner one final time, with Murray blasting over after a clever offload by Lowe.

And so, it’s over to France.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Josh van der Flier, Conor Murray

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [3 from 4]

Scotland scorers:

Tries: Pierre Schoeman

Conversions: Blair Kinghorn [0 from 1]

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan (Joey Carbery ’74); Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki  (Robbie Henshaw ’56), James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park (Conor Murray ’67); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’52), Dan Sheehan (Rob Herring ’63), Tadhg Furlong (Finlay Bealham ’68); Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson (Kieran Treadwell ’63); Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan (Peter O’Mahony ’52)  

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (captain); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris (Finn Russell ’67), Sam Johnson (Mark Bennett ’61), Kyle Steyn; Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price (Ben White ’61 (yellow card ’78)); Pierre Schoeman (Allan Dell ’74), George Turner (Fraser Brown ’52), Zander Fagerson (WP Nel ’55); Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist (Sam Skinner ’52); Rory Darge, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson (Josh Bayliss ’63).

Referee: Wayne Barnes [RFU].

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