Withers try keeps Ireland plan alive

Scotland's spirited challenge goes unrewarded again while Russians are crushed
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The Independent Online

Ireland made all but certain of a place in the quarter-finals of the Lincoln Financial World Cup by closing in on the mouth-watering prospect of a clash with England at Headingley a week on Saturday.

Ireland made all but certain of a place in the quarter-finals of the Lincoln Financial World Cup by closing in on the mouth-watering prospect of a clash with England at Headingley a week on Saturday.

The Irish eventually justified their status as favourites in the tournament's most unpredictable group, but Scotland showed an abundance of spirit but for the second time went unrewarded for their efforts.

A modest crowd saw two changed sides. Ireland's changes were voluntary, with Ian Herron and John Lawless coming in; Scotland's less so, with Lee Penny, Graham Mackay and Andrew Purcell injured - all of which seemed to tilt the balance in favour of the home side and they were ahead within three minutes. Scott Rhodes' kick was charged down by Luke Ricketson and Ryan Sheridan, the scrum-half Rhodes understudies at Leeds, won the race for the kick ahead, touching down and leaving Steve Prescott to kick the goal.

Ireland lost momentum with the temporary departure of Tommy Martyn with a rib injury after a collision, but Prescott extended their lead with a penalty. Scotland were on the wrong end of a heavy penalty count and, from a head-high tackle on Terry O'Connor that saw Dale Laughton placed on report, Prescott was on target once more.

Scotland had done well to limit the damage to 10 points, and shortly before half-time Adrian Vowles' pass sent Lee Gilmour through on the right. From his pass the supporting Danny Arnold for the try, converted by Matt Crowther, that opened the game up once more.

After the breakPrescott added a penalty, but Scotland could have been level if Gilmour had held on to a difficult pass from Vowles, but the ball went to ground.

Vowles, the Castleford captain who was so important to their tactics, soon went to the sin-bin for persistent offside. In his absence, Ireland once again took firm control with a try out of the top drawer. Kevin Campion began the attack, Prescott and Carney did remarkably well to get the ball away as they tumbled in the tackle and Michael Withers was there to round it off.

Prescott added a further penalty as Ireland played out time. Their minds might already be turning to the game against England they had in their sights from the time the draw was first made.

"Our aim hasn't changed," said Ireland's joint coach, Steve O'Neill. "We still want to beat the Maori and finish top of thje group so we can play England."

IRELAND: Prescott (Wakefield), Carney (Hull), Withers (Bradford), Eagar (Castleford), Herron (Hull), Martyn (Saint Helens), Sheridan (Leeds), O'Connor (Wigan), Lawless (Huddersfield), McDermott (Leeds), Joynt (Saint Helens), Campion (Brisbane), Ricketson (Sydney). Substitutes used: Williams (Melbourne), Mathiou (Leeds), Barnhill (Leeds), Bradbury (Huddersfield).

SCOTLAND: Arnold (Huddersfield), Daylight (Hull), Gilmour (Wigan), Bell (North Queensland), Crowther (Huddersfield), Horne (Hull), Rhodes (Leeds), Heckenberg (St George-Illawara), Russell (Huddersfield), Laughton (Huddersfield), Logan (Sydney), Cram (London), Vowles (Castleford). Substitutes used: Maiden (Hull), Graham (Dewsbury), McDonald (Hull), Shaw (Castleford).

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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