As it is, Scotland's triumph by four tries to one with all the trimmings, has given them the chance of a championship. It would, of course, depend on them beating France in Paris on 10 April with England losing to Wales at Wembley the following day.
Scotland have been the revelation of the championship and yesterday they were given a standing ovation by their supporters who, at the beginning of the year, had threatened to give Murrayfield the cold shoulder. Inspired by the guile and wit of Gregor Townsend and John Leslie, Scotland led Ireland into a highland fling before producing a memorable, stunning try mid-way through the second half.
At times the ground looked like an enterprise zone with both sides intent on an upwardly mobile game.
However, although Ireland's intentions were admirable, their execution was dreadful. This was more Nick Dundee than Istabraq; once again there is no place for the Irish in the winners' enclosure; once again they leave the championship as also-rans. All those green shoots of recovery have been trampled underfoot: one win from four has been their strike-rate for more than a decade. They are back to where they started.
Ireland, who have not won at Murrayfield since 1985, got off to a flyer, doing to Scotland what Scotland had done to Wales here. After Scott Murray had won a line-out inside the Irish 22, the ball was turned over. David Humphreys intelligently fed Dion O'Cuinneagain and the impressive flanker sold a dummy before sprinting clear. His chance went when he was baulked after kicking over the head of Glenn Metcalfe but Scotland conceded a penalty try anyway, John Leslie impeding Girvan Dempsey in a chase for the ball close to the Scottish line. Humphreys' conversion put Ireland 7-0 ahead in the second minute but Scotland did not seem at all perturbed.
Cameron Murray scored their first try six minutes later; his namesake, the unbeatable Scott Murray, once again won a lineout, Alan Tait switched play to the right and Leslie's long pass to the right wing left the Irish defence exposed.
Scotland failed to capitalise on a promising break by Leslie before a series of raids resulted in a penalty from 30 yards in front of the Irish posts which Logan kicked to give his side the lead in the 20th minute. Four minutes later Scotland went further ahead when Conor O'Shea was harshly penalised for not releasing the ball on his own 22. Scotland shunned the kick at goal, Townsend kicking perfectly into the right-hand corner from where, of course, the athletic Murray guaranteed them possession from the line-out. This time Leslie wrong-footed the Irish defenders before finding Townsend, who had the pace and the angle to elude Keith Wood's despairing tackle. Humphreys was on target with a relatively easy kick in the 32nd minute after Eric Peters had been penalised for not releasing.
Trailing by five points, Ireland then enjoyed their best phase since their opening strike. O'Cuinneagain put in a barnstorming run through the middle of the Scottish defence and it was the prelude to a series of frantic attacks. How the beleaguered Scottish line was not crossed, only the Irish know. Humphreys was on the point of scoring when he was caught by John Leslie; Wood made several breaches and, when Ireland won a penalty at the Scottish posts, Conor McGuinness took a tap penalty which gained them about a foot but lost them a glorious opportunity.
Scotland suffered a blow when they lost their Lions prop Tom Smith with a broken leg on the stroke of half-time and Humphreys reduced their lead to two points after 57 minutes, but then Scotland's adventurous threequarters launched a bewildering attack during which Leslie, Townsend and Tait all handled to release Cameron Murray for his second try.
A few minutes later Scotland supplied the piece de resistance. Wood ran into a cul-de-sac in front of the Scottish posts, the Irish lost possession and Townsend brilliantly counter-attacked. The move swept downfield with Metcalfe and Cameron Murray providing a turbo thrust before Stuart Grimes took a scoring pass 10 yards from the Irish line.
Ireland had a number of chances but not until the substitution of Rob Henderson for Jonathan Bell did they reveal a cutting edge in midfield. When O'Shea kicked the ball dead instead of into the corner only 10 yards or so from the Scottish line, it perfectly summed up Ireland's day.
Scotland: G Metcalfe (Glasgow Hawks); C Murray (Hawick), A Tait (Kelso), J Leslie (Sannix), K Logan (Wasps); G Townsend (Brive), G Armstrong (Newcastle, capt); T Smith (Dundee High School FP), G Bulloch (West of Scotland), P Burnell (London Scottish), S Murray (Bedford) S Grimes (Watsonians), P Walton (Newcastle), E Peters (Bath), M Leslie (Edinburgh Reivers). Replacements: D Hilton (Bath) for Smith, 40; B Pountney (Northampton) for Walton 67; S Longstaff (Dundee High School FP) for C Murray 75; S Brotherstone (Melrose) for Bulloch 77; I Fairley (Kelso) for Armstrong, 79.
Ireland: C O'Shea (London Irish); J Bishop (London Irish) K Maggs (Bath), J Bell (Dungannon), G Dempsey (Terenure College); D Humphreys (Dungannon), C McGuinness (St Mary's College); P Clohessy, (Young Munster), K Wood (Harlequins), P Wallis (Saracens), P Johns (Saracens, capt), J Davidson (Castres), D O'Cuinneagain (Sale), E Miller (Terenure College), A Ward (Ballynahinch). Replacements: V Costello (St Mary's College) for Miller, 16; R Henderson (Wasps) for Bell, 63; T Brennan (St Mary's College) for Ward, 64; C Scally (University College Dublin) for McGuinness, 75.
Referee: D Bevan (Wales).