Ansbro helps Scots stumble and fumble past Ireland

Scotland 10 Ireland 6: Robinson's men look very fit but worryingly short of skill in their victory over weakened opposition
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The Independent Online

Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes in Edinburgh, because fans were queuing to get in.

The punters were forced to wait 78 minutes for their reward, Joe Ansbro's late try handing the home side victory after a game in which they owned the ball but showed little creativity.

Scotland eventually found a way around an impressive Irish defence, but the victory did not mask the limitations that will make progressing from their pool in New Zealand a fearsome task. They will have England and Argentina for company there, and the way they huffed and puffed to overcome an experimental Ireland side indicated that they have a lot of improving to do.

A half-time scoreline of 3-0 to Ireland did not reflect Scotland's dominance of possession but it was an indictment of how they used it. Time and again they trundled close to the Ireland line, only to be undone by a defence that stayed resolute.

Jonathan Sexton kicked the sole points of the half, with a penalty after 32 minutes, Jim Hamilton having been punished for going off his feet. It was a rare break into the Scottish half, but if Andy Robinson's men handled most of the ball in the first half, they were repeatedly flummoxed when trying to figure out how to use it. Ireland's defence has grown increasingly resolute under the Australian coach Les Kiss, and it was the most impressive facet of their game here. The Scotland wing Nikki Walker, who subsequently left the field injured, knocked on in the one attack where Irish resistance looked stretched.

Robinson's preparation strategy for the World Cup contrasts sharply with that pursued by Declan Kidney. The Irish back-room team acknowledge that they are seeking to avoid the approach of four years ago, which involved only two Tests and concentrated instead on intense conditioning and fitness work. That ended in disaster, Ireland failing to get out of their pool and Eddie O'Sullivan losing his job within six months. Instead, this was the first of four Tests the Irish will play on consecutive Saturdays. It was also the one in which Kidney was most willing to sacrifice a result in exchange for promising performances from some fringe players.

Scotland, however, are following a pattern that resembles the Irish one of 2007; this is one of two warm-up matches, the Italians coming to Edinburgh on 20 August. Robinson's players look impressive physical specimens but he will worry that the offloading game they are intent on pursuing is an awfully long way away. Ireland are much further along that road, the one England have also identified as the only route to competing with the Tri-Nations trendsetters.

For Ireland, the Lion Rob Kearney made an assured return at full-back after eight months out with a knee injury, the hooker Jerry Flannery played his first game for his country in 18 months and Luke Fitzgerald was busy on the wing. However, middling displays from the understudy props, Tony Buckley and Tom Court, will leave Kidney praying that Cian Healy and Mike Ross can stay fit.

Scotland were level nine minutes into the second half, Chris Paterson kicking a penalty after Denis Leamy was ruled offside. There should have been more than that from this periodof play, the No 8 Johnnie Beattie breaking up the right wing but having only the prop Geoff Cross in support as he approached the 22.

Sexton kicked Ireland back in front with 15 minutes to play, but the Scots wanted victory, Ruaridh Jackson shunning a penalty to go for the corner. They were turned over, but then a thundering Nick De Luca break allowed Ansbro to hare up the right and step inside for a superb try.

Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh); N Walker (Ospreys), J Ansbro (London Irish), G Morrison (Glasgow), S Lamont (Scarlets); R Jackson (Glasgow), R Lawson (Gloucester, capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross (all Edinburgh), J Hamilton (Gloucester), R Gray (Glasgow), A Strokosch (Gloucester), J Beattie (Glasgow), R Rennie (Edinburgh). Replacements: J Cuthbert (Bath) for Walker, 21; A Dickinson (Gloucester) for Jacobsen, 57; A Kellock (Glasgow) for Hamilton, 57; D Denton (Edinburgh) for Beattie, 57; G Laidlaw (Edinburgh) for Lawson, 71; N De Luca (Edinburgh) for Paterson, 71; D Hall (Glasgow) for Ford, 71.

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster), F McFadden (Leinster), P Wallace (Ulster), L Fitzgerald; J Sexton (both Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster); T Court (Ulster), S Cronin (Leinster), T Buckley (Sale), D Ryan (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster, capt); M McCarthy (Connacht), D Leamy, N Ronan (both Munster). Replacements: K McLaughlin (Leinster) for Ryan, 52; J Flannery (Munster) for Cronin, 61; F Jones (Munster) for Fitzgerald, 61; I Boss (Leinster) for O'Leary, 61; J Hayes (Munster) for Buckley, 61; M O'Driscoll (Munster) for Cullen, 61; M Horan (Munster) for Court, 62;

Referee: W Barnes (England)

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