Home Features The Power Plays: Ireland Inaccuracies Still Evident Despite Much-Needed Win

The Power Plays: Ireland Inaccuracies Still Evident Despite Much-Needed Win

Ireland got back to winning ways after an opening Guinness Six Nations defeat to England by beating Scotland 22-13 at Murrayfield. 

Ireland brought a level of physicality and intent which we didn’t see at the Aviva Stadium and although they scored three tries in the Scottish capital, they will be disappointed that they didn’t get a fourth for the bonus-point which would have improved their chances of claiming the championship.

An improved attacking performance was evident but there is still some inaccuracies in Ireland’s play which would have frustrated Joe Schmidt and the players themselves.

Here, we take a look at some incidents in the game where Ireland’s attacking play broke down.

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8 Minutes

Scotland took the lead with a Greig Laidlaw penalty after seven minutes which was the result of a fast start from the hosts.

From the resulting kick-off from Ireland, Huw Jones failed to collect as he knocked on with the ball dribbling into touch.

Ireland are awarded the first scrum of the game in a good position, on Scotland’s 22 and 5m in from the touchline.

Ireland Scotland Six Nations

This is the perfect opportunity for a Schmidt ‘power play’ but as we see below, the move breaks down by the finest of margins.

From the scrum, Conor Murray passes to Johnny Sexton who pops the ball off to Bundee Aki who barrels into Finn Russell.

Source: Virgin Media

Quick ball is generated and that allows Peter O’Mahony to carry around the corner on the second phase.

This pre-designed move aims to strike on the third phase and it’s here we see Ireland almost pull off something special.

Ireland bounce back against the grain as Murray (green) sends the ball to Jack Conan (white). Sexton (red) is the intended target and there’s a lot going on in this moment.

Cian Healy is currently shielding Sexton and Bundee Aki also has his arms up to animate that he may be one of the recipients of Conan’s pass.

Sean O’Brien (blue) is running a hard line to draw the attention of the Scotland inside defenders while Russell and Stuart McInally (pink) are rushing up hard on the edge to cancel out a long pass to the wing.

Ireland Scotland Six Nations

There’s little doubt that Schmidt has seen Scotland’s defence rush up like this before and he’s using the eagerness of McInally and Russell against them in this instance.

As the pair (pink) rush up it leaves an opening (white) for Sexton (red circle) to attack as he loops around to receive the pass from Conan (white circle).

Sexton wants to charge into this space at pace because Jacob Stockdale (green) and Chris Farrell, who are inside him, are beginning to make a move up the wing where they will hope to receive the pass once Sexton gets in that area.

Ireland Scotland Six Nations

Unfortunately, the pass from Conan is a little loose as you can see in the image above as Sexton has to stretch out his left arm to collect the ball.

This stops Sexton’s momentum by the smallest of margins and as he attempts to rearrange his feet, he slips and falls into contact as Grant Gilchrist (red scrum cap) makes the tackle.

As we can see below, Sexton (red circle) has gone to deck as a result of his slip but if he had stayed on his feet, he would have had the option to pass to Farrell or Stockdale (green).

Either man would have sucked in Tommy Seymour (1) and the pass would be on for a clear run in to the try line. Stuart Hogg (2) would have likely come across to cover but you would back Stockdale or Farrell in this scenario.

Ireland Scotland Six Nations

Footage of the move below shows how close Ireland were to getting the first try of the game at this point.

Source: Virgin Media

Ireland, of course, pull off a set piece special in this game when Stockdale burst through the Scottish defence for their second try on 17 minutes but you can expect this is very much a case of an opportunity lost.

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9 Minutes

Throughout the rest of the game, there were other moments where Ireland’s attack either failed to fire or came within a whisker of producing a score, we’ll go through some of those moments now.

As the move which we discussed continues, Ireland carry through Sexton and some miscommunication between the outhalf and Stockdale sees the ball spilled forward.

In this instance, it looks like Stockdale is running a hard line inside Sexton to receive a flat pass but the two get too close together and they collide.

Source: Virgin Media

Scotland end up kicking the ball away and from the resulting move, Ireland score through Murray after Seymour passes the ball over Sean Maitland’s head.

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13 Minutes

Ireland receive possession when McInally overthrows a lineout. The visitors go through a number of phases until they go back against the grain and Conan acts as the creator once again as he passes out the back to Aki.

The pass is perfectly on the money this time but Aki gets smashed behind the gainline by Jamie Ritchie. It was an excellent read from Ritchie but the Connacht man probably would have wanted to get the pass away quicker to Farrell.

Sean O’Brien was running a decoy line so it would have been interesting to see if Farrell could spot a gap if he received the ball.

Source: Virgin Media

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21 Minutes 

In this passage of play. Ireland have a lineout on the nearside and Murray breaks up the touchline before stepping back inside. He gets tackled and Ireland, with front foot ball, look to keep the pressure on.

Healy deputises at scrum-half and he passes to Tadhg Furlong who carries hard into contact.

On the next phase we see Murray pass to Sexton who subsequently gives it to Aki (white circle). Aki has Farrell (green) outside him who is in a great position to receive a pass at pace. Sexton (red) is also running a loop and is in a position to receive the pass if Ireland want to attack towards the fringes.

Ireland Scotland Six Nations

It’s difficult to know what the call is here exactly but Aki steps back inside and takes contact as Farrell runs past, clearly thinking he was in a position to take the pass.

Source: Virgin Media

Ireland go through another nine phases until Healy knocks the ball forward.

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45 minutes

At the beginning of the second half, Ireland had a huge opportunity to score their third try.

With a penalty advantage, Schmidt’s side move the ball from right to left. Kearney is in possession and he does brilliantly to make ground into the Scotland 22.

Unfortunately, he takes contact instead passing out wide to Stockdale.

Blair Kinghorn does well to get himself in a position to cover the potential pass to Stockdale but with the Ulster man’s threat in one on one situations, a pass to the 22-year-old would have been a better option.

Instead, Kearney tries to offload to Farrell on the inside but the ball goes forward and play is brought back for the original penalty which comes to nothing as Ireland get turned over.

Source: Virgin Media

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75 Minutes 

This is Ireland’s real final moment in this game where they find themselves in a good position to get that elusive fourth try and bonus-point.

A lineout maul on the 22 ekes out a few metres until Murray fires the ball towards Aki.

Finn Russell charges out of the line looking for a potential intercept but the ball still finds its target. The pass from Murray is a bit high which makes it more difficult to catch but Aki will be disappointed that he got distracted by Russell’s charge and failed to catch the ball.

Source: Virgin Media

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Ultimately, Ireland put in an improved display against Scotland but some of the inaccuracies which have been described here will provide plenty of training ground work over the next two weeks before Ireland travel to Rome to take on Italy.

About Sean McMahon

Sean is Head of Pundit Arena Rugby. Contact him on Twitter here: