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Ireland captain Best feels defence got too narrow as Scotland ran riot

The hooker put his hand up to accept blame for the Alex Dunbar lineout try.

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

IRELAND CAPTAIN RORY Best says his side’s defence got too narrow as Scotland ran riot in the first half to race into a 21-5 lead at one point in their eventual 27-22 victory in Edinburgh.

Ireland did manage to recover from a poor start and earn a 22-21 advantage heading into the closing quarter of the Six Nations opener at Murrayfield, but two late Greig Laidlaw sealed a deserved win for the home side.

Rob Kearney and John Ryan dejected Ireland were stunned by a brilliant Scotland start. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The first half was hugely frustrating because basically almost everything we talked about doing, we didn’t do,” said Best post-match. “We got narrow in defence, we weren’t physical. We knew that they would come at us. We knew we needed to get front-foot ball.

“We knew, especially the way their team was, that we had to be accurate at the breakdown and get our ball carriers across the gainline. We didn’t do any of that. I suppose the only good thing was that at half time, we said he hadn’t done any of that so if we could start to do that, we could start to get back into the game.

“It was just hugely frustrating the way we started that game. If you let a player like Finn Russell have plenty of time to pull the strings, have a couple of steps and throw 30-metre passes to guys like Hogg, Seymour, Maitland, then you’re always going to be struggling.

“For us forwards, we weren’t able to get our spacings, we weren’t able to get off the line and it’s very frustrating.”

The poor start brought back nightmare memories of the 2015 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina for many Ireland fans, with an equally poor effort made in the opening minutes on that occasion.

Best said Ireland had no sense that they were not in a good place mentally, even after their arrival to the stadium was 15 minutes late.

“We prepared well all week,” said Best. “Obviously we were late, but we’re professionals and you’re used to dealing with different scenarios.

“Everyone has been in these scenarios before and when you get into them, you rely on the preparation you’ve done, which we felt was good. I think part of the slow start was how well they started. We gave them access but then we also had an opportunity to exit and we turned the ball over.”


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Rory Best at the post match press conference Best and Ireland travel to Italy next weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Centre Alex Dunbar’s try from a lineout was symbolic of Ireland’s sluggishness.

“We were probably a little bit sluggish on that lineout try they scored, a little bit of a special move where we knew they’re a quality side who could come up with something unique,” said Best.

“You always prepare for what you’ve seen before but you also prepare yourself for something you haven’t seen. I think that summed up where we were probably a little bit behind.

“Myself and Tadhg in there just didn’t quite cover all the bases you have to at this level.”

For Ireland to get into the lead for the first time in the second half and still lose this game made it all the more frustrating, particularly as it was a case of Best and his players not doing what they had set out to do.

“The big thing we said was that we had to keep playing,” said Best. “We had seen in the first half that when they get the ball, they’re very dangerous and unfortunately we just gave up a few penalties, lost field position and they put us under pressure and we gave up another penalty.

“That gave them the lead back, we feel, reasonably cheaply and the talk was to keep attacking them. We know how good they are and we also know how good we are when we go out with that mentality.”

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Murray Kinsella

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