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Dublin: 18 °C Thursday 19 September, 2019

Four-try Ireland finish with a flourish as Schmidt's men put Scotland to the sword

A positive way to end the campaign ahead of the summer tour of South Africa.

Conor Murray celebrates his try with Andrew Trimble and Donnacha Ryan.
Conor Murray celebrates his try with Andrew Trimble and Donnacha Ryan.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland 35
Scotland 25

- Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium

IRELAND ROUNDED OFF an ultimately disappointing Six Nations campaign with a flourish as Joe Schmidt’s side swept Scotland aside with a four-try display at the Aviva Stadium.

The scoreline suggests this was a much closer contest than it was but Ireland, off the back of last week’s hammering of Italy, were dominant for large periods and were full value for their 10-point victory.

All of a sudden the doom and gloom which had engulfed the side, after their title defence ended limply, has evaporated as a capacity crowd at Lansdowne Road were treated to another encouraging performance.

CJ Stander and Keith Earls, on his 50th appearance, set Ireland on their way as they assumed control of the game with Scotland’s John Barclay in the sin-bin.

It proved to be a defining period in the game but, to their credit, the Scots showed admirable resolve to keep Ireland honest right up until the final whistle of an entertaining, and frantic, game of rugby.

Ireland always had their noses in front. Leading by 11 points at half-time, that advantage was extended soon after the break as Conor Murray forced his way over for Ireland’s third try.

At that juncture, the argument had all been settled and the visitors then came out of their shell and played with freedom. Richie Gray gave his side some hope of an unlikely comeback but the final quarter was as open as you’re likely to see.

Conor Murray offloads to Jonathan Sexton Sexton and Murray were influential all game. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Devin Toner ensured there would be no blockbuster finish and Alex Dunbar then added further gloss to the scoreboard for Scotland but it was merely a consolation on a disappointing outing for Vern Cotter’s side.

They were caught off guard as Ireland came out of the blocks quickly, purposeful in their business from the off. Johnny Sexton orchestrated much of it and his low, drilled kick in behind the Scottish defence stamped his authority on the contest.

By the time the visitors had their first meaningful foray into opposition territory, Sexton’s boot had given Ireland an early advantage.

The Leinster out-half made no mistake from in front of the posts after Barclay had been penalised at the breakdown as Ireland pushed for an early score.

The licence Ireland had been afforded by Schmidt to play a fast, offloading game against the Italians had extended into this week and it was evident from the outset.

Murray and Earls were the first to combine on the near touchline, a move which resulted in the French referee awarding Ireland a second penalty.

On that occasion, Sexton tugged his effort left of the target but quickly found his radar again from 35 metres out with a much cleaner, and sweeter, strike.

Having arrived in Dublin infused with an air of confidence off the back of victories over Italy and France, Scotland never got going until the final quarter on a bitterly cold evening in the capital.

After finding a way back into the argument, firstly through Laidlaw’s clinical right boot and then Stuart Hogg’s bursting run, further indiscipline cost Cotter’s charges.

Hogg, arguably the best player of the tournament, spotted a weak link in Ireland’s defensive line after Murray’s loose kick and needed no second invitation to fly through Rory Best and Mike Ross.

Stuart Hogg breaks free to score the first try Hogg had put Scotland in the lead in the first-half. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Scotland, having barely had any of the ball, now found themselves in front but were punished by Ireland’s two-try flurry.

Barclay left the field with his side holding a one-point advantage but returned 10 minutes later with the Scots 11 in arrears.

With a numerical advantage, Sexton opted to kick for the corner and his decision paid dividends after a sustained period of pressure.

Ireland recycled possession and after working their way through the phases, eventually found a route through as Stander saw a gap and jumped over a couple of bodies to touch down.

Duncan Weir, deputising for the injured Finn Russell, knocked the restart straight into touch to gift Ireland another attacking platform.

From the set-piece, Sexton came left and he saw the space in behind. His delicate chip, with the outside of his left boot, fell inbetween Hogg and Tommy Seymour and a wicked, or perfect bounce depending on your view point, left Earls with the simple task of running it into the corner.

Sexton dissected the posts with the conversion and Ireland suddenly found themselves firmly in the ascendancy.

But Scotland are made of tougher stuff these days and Laidlaw’s second penalty on the stroke of half-time ensured they remained in the contest.

The second-half started much like the first and the crowd were treated to another scintillating Irish move as Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw and Andrew Trimble were all involved down the right.

With the Scottish defence scrambling, Trimble was unable to find the final pass as Weir came across to cover.

However, Ireland’s pressure eventually told as, from the next phase of play, Murray pulled the strings before forcing his way over.

Jamie Heaslip Jamie Heaslip was named man of the match. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

At 28-10, the hosts were in cruise control but Scotland rallied and reduced the deficit again as Gray exposed Ireland’s defence. A potentially blockbuster finale was on the cards and while Devin Toner’s try appeared to settle it, Scotland were to have the final say.

With Sexton shown yellow in the closing stages, Alex Dunbar, who was just back on the pitch after a sin-binning of his own, was left in acres of space on the right after Duncan Taylor’s sublime pass.

It was another extraordinary piece of individual skill but it was Ireland’s day and it is they who end the campaign on a winning note.

Ireland scorers: 
Tries: CJ Stander, Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Devin Toner
Penalties: Jonathan Sexton [3 from 4]
Conversions: Jonathan Sexton [3 from 4]

Scotland scorers:

Tries: Stuart Hogg, Richie Gray, Alex Dunbar 
Penalties: Greg Laidlaw [2 from 2] 
Conversions: Greg Laidlaw [2 from 3]

IRELAND: Simon Zebo, Andrew Trimble (Fergus McFadden 78′), Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray (Eoin Reddan 78′); Jack McGrath (Cian Healy 67′), Rory Best (c) (Richardt Strauss 67′), Mike Ross (Nathan White 63′), Donnacha Ryan (Ultan Dillane 70′), Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell (Rhys Ruddock 70′), Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements not used: Ian Madigan.

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser (Sean Lamont 69′), Duncan Weir (Pete Horne 63′), Greg Laidlaw (c); Alasdair Dickinson (Rory Sutherland 66′), Ross Ford (Stuart McInally 50′), Willem Nel, Richie Gray, Tim Swinson (Rob Harley 63′), John Barclay, John Hardie (Josh Strauss 52′), Ryan Wilson.

Replacements not used: Henry Pyrgos.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FFR).

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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