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Farrell's Ireland off to winning start with shaky victory over wasteful Scotland
Captain Johnny Sexton scored all of Ireland’s points as Ireland edged a frenetic contest.

Ireland 19

Scotland 12

THE ANDY FARRELL era is up and running with a win but it came in shaky fashion as Ireland edged to victory in Dublin against Gregor Townsend’s wasteful Scotland.

New captain Johnny Sexton scored all of Ireland’s points on a crisp evening in Dublin, including a sharp first-half try, but Farrell’s men never had convincing control of this tie and Scotland will have major regrets. 

jonathan-sexton-celebrates-his-try Gary Carr / INPHO Sexton celebrates his first-half try. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

The visitors lived up their reputation as one of the most wasteful teams in Test rugby with a long series of missed chances following excellent build-up play, typified most clearly by captain Stuart Hogg dropping the ball over the line with no one around him in the 51st minute.

It was a certainty of a try but Scotland were at their least clinical, constantly letting Ireland off the hook down in their 22.  

There were some huge defensive plays from Ireland, with man of the match CJ Stander particularly prominent after an early move to number eight following a head injury to Caelan Doris just minutes into his Test debut.

In a frenetic game, referee Mathieu Raynal frustrated both teams, with a combined 23 penalties conceded, but the game wasn’t short on absorbing, heart-in-mouth moments.

There were glimpses of a loosening of the shackles for Ireland in their attack, although not always to great effect. The try they scored through Sexton on penalty advantage was intelligent and Farrell will hope for further development in that area in the weeks to come.

For now, he will be greatly relieved to see his team off to a winning start as they avoided being the first Ireland team to lose at home to the Scots in a decade. But Farrell will know that his side will need to be much, much better next weekend when Wales come to town. 

The Ireland boss appeared to pick up injury worries in tighthead Tadhg Furlong and centre Garry Ringrose, while Doris and Dave Kilcoyne departed with head injuries.

caelan-doris-goes-off-injured Dan Sheridan / INPHO Caelan Doris' debut lasted just five minutes. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Debutant Caelan Doris showed his quality within 96 seconds of the kick-off, winning an important turnover penalty inside Ireland’s 22 after a frenetic and threatening start from Scotland in attack.

But the Leinster man was gone by the fifth minute, taking a nasty blow to the head in a tackle on Adam Hastings after the Scots scythed through again, this time winning a penalty as James Ryan failed to roll clear of his tackle, allowing Hastings to kick the visitors into the lead off the tee.

Ireland responded well, first through Jordan Larmour making a superb linebreak after working hard to get into position to take a short pass from Sexton. The ball bobbled loose from an Irish ruck a few phases later but Josh van der Flier pounced immediately for a turnover penalty and Sexton opted to go into the left corner.

Farrell’s men made the decision pay off as they earned a penalty advantage and then used it very cleverly to score. Ryan stepped into scrum-half at the ruck with Conor Murray instead fading out behind the pod of Cian Healy and van der Flier, with the loosehead dropping a pass behind to Murray as Scotland anticipated a hard carry, then Murray screened Larmour to hit Sexton for an untouched finish. The captain converted for 7-3.

Ireland’s scrum was in trouble in the 15th minute as Healy was done for hinging, with Hastings on target again to draw his side back to within a point, signalling a period of severe pressure on the home side. Ireland needed some big defensive plays.

jacob-stockdale-is-tackled-by-ali-price-and-nick-haining Dan Sheridan / INPHO Jacob Stockdale is upended. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

First, Peter O’Mahony – on for Doris – and Stander helped to force a turnover at a Scottish maul in the 22, while O’Mahony made a massive turnover penalty, aided by van der Flier, metres from the Ireland tryline just four minutes later.

A big break from Stander briefly lifted the Scottish onslaught but Garry Ringrose was then pinged for obstruction with Ireland in a promising position. The closing 10 minutes of the half were truly madcap, beginning with Raynal missing a late tap tackle on Larmour by Hogg, resulting in the Scots having more pressure in the 22.

A strip in the tackle from Ryan lifted that particular siege but Hastings had another chance to kick for three points soon after when Ireland sealed off at the breakdown. This time, the Scotland number 10 missed. 

A brilliant 22m restart from Sexton allowed Stockdale to gather and burst all the way into the Scotland half, where Ali Price was offside in tackling opposite number Murray. Sexton nailed his penalty shot for a 10-6 Ireland lead.

He could have extended it further after Ireland hooker Rob Herring worked hard on kick chase and smothered Hastings in a tackle, with Jonny Gray coming in the side in panic, but Sexton was wide.

A final frantic passage saw Ireland break with a classy one-two of passes between Ringrose and Bundee Aki, only for Murray’s pass to be intercepted by Sam Johnson, who was hauled down by the chasing Stockdale. The Scots cross-kicked to the left through Hastings and Hogg danced dangerously but Stander produced a vital turnover penalty to allow Ireland into the break with their 10-6 advantage. 

garry-ringrose-makes-a-break Dan Sheridan / INPHO Garry Ringrose breaks for Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland lost Ringrose at the break, Henshaw on in his place, and Farrell’s men were able to add to their lead soon after the restart as Scotland twice failed to roll away, Sexton kicking the second penalty for 13-6.

The Scots should have finally had their try in the 51st minute but captain Hogg somehow dropped the ball over the tryline in the left corner with no one around him.

The chance stemmed from Conway and Larmour trying to run a kick out of their own 22, the fullback stepping into touch to hand Scotland a prime chance. They duly earned penalty advantage and swung the ball left to the completely unmarked Hogg but he spilled the ball when presented with the easiest of untouched finishes.

As Hogg wished for the ground to open up and swallow him, Hastings did at least slot the penalty for 13-9.

A high tackle on Sexton by his opposite number allowed Ireland back down the other end in this see-saw contest, where Tadhg Furlong’s destructive ball-carrying helped the home team to another penalty that Sexton slotted to open up a seven-point lead again.

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stuart-hogg-knocks-the-ball-on-at-the-try-line Dan Sheridan / INPHO Hogg drops the ball over the tryline. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Henshaw’s clever grubber and chase down the right forced Hastings over the touchline and looked to have handed Ireland a chance to open up real breathing room from the lineout inside the 22, but Hamish Watson ripped the ball clean out of their maul to relieve the pressure.

The introduction of John Cooney heading into the final quarter was warmly received by the Aviva Stadium crowd and he was swiftly required to make two smart tackles as the Scots thundered at Ireland, chasing the comeback.

The attacking flurry yielded another penalty as Henderson failed to roll away, Hastings’ strike ensuring a nervy finish as Ireland led 16-12. 

Some cool box kicking from Cooney put Ireland into Scottish territory in the minutes that followed and an excellent contestable from Sexton resulted in a crucial penalty as the retreating Sam Johnson blocked Conway’s chase. 

The Ireland captain kicked the three from a central position for the 19-12 lead in what was his last act, Ross Byrne coming on at out-half at the same time as Ronan Kelleher got his debut at hooker.

But the Scots kept coming as replacement hooker Stuart McInally broke through their defence and linked with Watson to take them back into the Irish 22.

They battered and battered at Ireland’s tryline but Stander came up with a game-clinching turnover penalty in the 78th minute.  

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Johnny Sexton

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [1 from 1]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [4 from 5]

Scotland scorers:

Penalties: Adam Hastings [4 from 5]

IRELAND: Jordan Larmour; Andrew Conway, Garry Ringrose (Robbie Henshaw ‘HT), Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Ross Byrne ’73), Conor Murray (John Cooney ’60); Cian Healy (Dave Kilcoyne ’50 – reversal ’51) (Andrew Porter ’66), Rob Herring (Ronan Kelleher ’73), Tadhg Furlong (Cian Healy ’78); Iain Henderson (Devin Toner ’67), James Ryan; CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris (Peter O’Mahony ’5).

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (captain); Sean Maitland, Huw Jones (Chris Harris ’65), Sam Johnson (Rory Hutchinson ’73), Blair Kinghorn; Adam Hastings, Ali Price (George Horne ’65); Rory Sutherland (Allan Dell ’65), Fraser Brown (Stuart McInally ’46 to ’51, permanent ’57), Zander Fagerson (WP Nel ’73); Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray (Ben Toolis ’65); Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Nick Haining (Cornell du Preez ’73).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [France].  


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