Best's men push Scots in direction of wooden spoon

Ireland 32 Scotland 14: Ireland make light of loss of key players with four tries to pile pressure on opponents' head coach

croke park

The Six Nations Championship tends to yield tales of what might have been, and the Irish had mostly taken their last-gasp defeat to Wales here and the draw in France on the chin, until their head coach, Declan Kidney, last night reported a midweek conversation with the International Board referee manager, Paddy O'Brien, that suggested the penalty count in Paris ought to have been more in his side's favour. Whatever, they go now to England on St Patrick's Day (via the Cheltenham Festival – blimey, what a week) with legs weary after three matches in as many weeks but on a winning high. Scotland, beaten four times, are bound for Italy with the dreaded wooden spoon at stake.

The preserved heart of Laurence O'Toole, patron saint of Dublin, was stolen from the Christ Church Cathedral last weekend. Ireland may feel something similar has happened to their rugby team but they are fighting through. Deprived for the Championship of the operated-on Brian O'Driscoll, they suffered injuries in the last week to his stand-in as captain, Paul O'Connell, the flanker Sean O'Brien and the scrum-half Conor Murray. But each of their understudies – Rory Best as skipper, Peter O'Mahony, a lump of an openside from Cork, and Eoin Reddan – did their bit in an entertaining victory lapped up by a capacity crowd.

Both these sides are adept at picking up pace quickly but Ireland were much more direct, and why wouldn't they be with Tommy Bowe on the wing – though he failed by a tiny margin to maintain his record of scoring in each Championship match – and Rob Kearney in the thrilling form that made him the Lions' full-back in 2009. Scotland merely make a lot of passes very quickly and from side to side and are too often too easy to defend. They were lifted from the ordinary just the once, when the great gazelle of a lock Richie Gray ran 25 metres, brushing off Reddan and dummying Kearney for a try after 36 minutes that had Scotland trailing 17-14.

Who knows, this style may serve the Scots and their energetic and skilful back-rowers in the long run but will Andy Robinson be around to see it? It is thought the former England coach's old club Bath would like him back, possibly with Sir Ian McGeechan moving into a director's role.

"I wouldn't like to quantify it but it was a step back," Robinson said. "We didn't put more than three phases together and caused a lot of our own problems." Scotland's Six Nations record under him now reads two wins and a draw in 14 matches, and this was a sixth straight defeat in all games for the first time since 2004.

The Scots led 6-0 with penalties by Greig Laidlaw but they conceded three tries before half-time. Best decided to go for touch with a 13th-minute penalty and scored himself when Donnacha Ryan batted the line-out throw and O'Mahony on the peel fed his captain to blast past Mike Blair.

Jonny Sexton, the Ireland fly-half, can hack through the ball like a butcher cleaving a side of beef but if the trajectory is sometimes wonky, the majority go over. He converted Best's try, then kicked a penalty that Laidlaw responded to – a mystifying choice, ordered by Robinson, given that Scotland had the Irish on the rack with two line-outs in the 22 and a yellow card looming. Sexton kicked again for 17-9 when Reddan was heinously allowed to scramble to the line, having fumbled behind a ruck.

With a few seconds before the break, Scotland allowed Ireland to score again. Stephen Ferris secured a line-out and with Sexton's sizzling distribution, Andrew Trimble drove through a quartet of flapping blue jerseys for a 22-14 lead.

Ireland's scrum that served them well in Paris did so again and the savage precision of their piling into the breakdown weighed ever heavier on Scotland as time ticked on.

Bowe caught an inventive cross-kick by Sexton but Graeme Morrison got his body underneath the wing who was ruled to have made a double movement. Best was then among four Irishmen who were withdrawn in the third quarter, with weariness on Kidney's mind.

Ronan O'Gara came on to assume the captaincy and shift Sexton to centre – you wonder whether the latter likes that or lumps it? Just as Scotland tried to plot a final-quarter revival – Stuart Hogg, a try-scorer against France, was hardly seen going forward – there was a sickening hiatus. The Edinburgh wing Lee Jones leant into a clumsy tackle by Trimble, their heads clashed and Jones appeared knocked out before he hit the ground. The 23-year-old was taken to hospital as a precaution but with no spinal problem reported, thankfully.

Eventually, a maul offence brought the first points of the half, in the 72nd minute. Sexton hit the spot from wide out. And there was time for more. Kearney's breakout and Keith Earls' grubber was halted by a sly tug from Max Evans that earned the Scot a trip to the sin bin. But Fergus McFadden, on for Kearney, burrowed to the posts for Sexton to convert and the emphasis it gave the scoreline could not be quibbled with.

"England in Twickenham will be a force," said Kidney. "This was a performance in the right direction and as a coach that's what you want as a tournament goes on."

Ireland R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy (all Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan, D Ryan (both Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), J Heaslip (Leinster), P O'Mahony (Munster). Replacements T Court (Ulster) for Healy, 50-58 & for Ross, 78; R O'Gara (Munster) for D'Arcy, 53; T O'Leary (Munster) for Reddan, 53; S Cronin (Leinster) for Best, 53; S Jennings (Leinster) for O'Mahony, 61; F McFadden (Leinster) for Kearney, 72; M McCarthy (Connacht) for O'Callaghan, 78.

Scotland S Hogg (Glasgow); L Jones (Edinburgh), M Evans (Castres), G Morrison (Glasgow), S Lamont (Scarlets); G Laidlaw, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford (capt), G Cross (all Edinburgh), R Gray (Glasgow), J Hamilton (Gloucester), J Barclay (Glasgow), D Denton, R Rennie (both Edinburgh). Replacements E Murray (Newcastle) for Cross, 46; C Cusiter (Glasgow) for Blair, 49; R Jackson (Glasgow) for Laidlaw, 55; R Vernon (Sale) for Rennie, 58; A Kellock (Glasgow) forHamilton, 59; M Scott (Edinburgh) for Jones, 61.

Referee: C Pollock (New Zealand).


Tries: Best, Reddan, Trimble, McFadden

Cons: Sexton 3

Pens: Sexton 2


Try: Gray

Pens: Laidlaw 3

newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn