Scotland – 13
Ireland – 22
Sean McMahon reporting from Murrayfield
After a week which saw questions raised about this Ireland team after their humbling to England at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, Joe Schmidt’s side were aiming to avoid falling to two successive Six Nations defeats for the first time since 2016.
As it transpired, a chaotic game, which ebbed and flowed like the wind swirling around Murrayfield, remained in the melting pot up until the 69th minute when Joey Carbery, a first-half replacement for Johnny Sexton, added a penalty to give Ireland a nine-point cushion going into the last 10 minutes.
This win will come as a huge relief to both the players and management.
It wasn’t without its flaws but any win against a Scotland side who are so impressive at home is a feather in the camp and Joe Schmidt’s side will welcome the fallow week before they take on Italy in a fortnight.
Scotland got off to a promising start as they dominated possession and territory due to a poor Ireland exit from the kick-off.
Ireland struggled with the initial power and physicality their opponents brought to the game, Josh Strauss running over Bundee Aki just one of many brutal carries from Gregor Townsend’s men in the opening minutes.
Scotland began to stretch Ireland around the fringes which led to Johnny Sexton putting in a poor tackle attempt, which was high, on Ryan Wilson.
Showing their intent, the hosts opted for the corner but a try wasn’t forthcoming. A second penalty was awarded and Greig Laidlaw made no mistake this time as he opted for the posts to put his side 3-0 up after seven minutes.
Ireland first real phase of possession came with a 10-phase cycle which ultimately led to a knock-on. Just when Ireland thought the chance was gone, they turned over possession and played the ball to Jacob Stockdale who kicked through, innocuously enough, to Scotland’s backfield.
A bouncing ball was collected by Tommy Seymour but he threw a ball over the head of Sean Maitland and Conor Murray was on hand to collect and dive over the line to shock the majority of those in attendance.
Sexton missed the straightforward conversion and it was clear that the World Player of the Year was carrying a knock.
The erratic nature of this match continued as Murray kicked the ball out on the full and Sexton intercepted a poor Scottish pass. Those opportunities for both sides came to nothing but it was Ireland who would strike again and it came from some lovely play on their part.
Sexton attacked the line and sent a flat, inviting pass to Stockdale. The Ulster winger burst through a gap in the Scotland defence to run untouched on the way to the try line. Murray converted and Ireland had a 3-12 lead with less than a quarter of the game played.
Townsend’s side responded in the second 20-minute period of the first-half.
Pressure came from the restart where Ireland looked shaky once again. Pressure came from the hosts and they were awarded a penalty Peter O’Mahony was penalised at the ruck. Russell shaped as if he was going to kick for the corner but instead quick tapped in an attempt to catch Ireland napping – a phase later and the home side knocked it on.
Like Ireland’s first try, Scotand’s first came from a mistake. Joey Carbery, who came on for Sexton after 24 minutes, threw an intercept pass which was picked off all too easily by Russell. Earls did very well to cover and make a last-ditch tackle but the Scotland out-half was able to throw a pass from the ground to the supporting Sam Johnson who scored their much-needed try.
Laidlaw added the conversion to leave just two points between the sides with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
There was more danger for Ireland as the first 40 drew to a close.
Another dangerous Scotland grubber kick ricocheted off Carbery when the Munster out-half attempted to slide and collect. The ball went dangerously towards the Irish line and all Earls could do was carry the ball over the line with him to hand his opponents a lineout just metres from the line.
Scotland soon won a scrum and from there, they went through 25 phases until Ireland secured a dramatic turnover.
This was a huge momentum shifter as Schmidt’s men were able to get back to the safety of the dressing room with a two-point lead still intact.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half was poor enough fare with both sides blowing good opportunities through a series of unforced errors.
Ireland struck the killer blow on 56 minutes when a break from Carbery brought play deep into Scotland’s 22 where the out-half threw a beautiful, looping pass to Earls saw the Munster winger score his side’s third try of the game.
Scotland hit back through a Laidlaw penalty after 63 minutes but Carbery did the same to keep the crucial nine-point cushion intact with 10 minutes of the game remaining.
Scotland tried their best to provide a late surge in the final 10 minutes but Ireland saw out the challenge to win out 13-22.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Kinghorn 17′), Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson (Horne 64′), Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (c) (Price 69′), Allan Dell (Bhatti 69′), Stuart McInally (Brown 64′), Simon Berghan (Rae 69′), Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Ryan Wilson (Ritchie 41′), Jamie Ritchie (Harley 35′ Blood Sub), Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, D’Arcy Rae, Ben Toolis, Rob Harley, Ali Price, Pete Horne, Blair Kinghorn.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale (Larmour 72′), Jonathan Sexton (Carbery 24′), Conor Murray (Cooney 77′), Cian Healy (Kilcoyne 59′), Rory Best (c) (Cronin 72′), Tadhg Furlong (Porter 68′), James Ryan, Quinn Roux (Dillane 68′), Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien (van der Flier 64′), Jack Conan.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.