Ireland beaten by Scotland at Murrayfield
Saturday 06 August 2011
Scotland struck late through Joe Ansbro to launch their build-up to the World Cup with an uninspiring win over Ireland at Murrayfield.
Victory seemed to be within Ireland's grasp after Jonathan Sexton had slotted two penalties in a largely dismal contest, only for Ansbro to run in his first Test try with four minutes remaining.
The London Irish centre was put into space by substitute Nick De Luca and seized his opportunity magnificently, showing pace and a neat sidestep from 30 yards out to cross for the decisive score.
It was the only moment of brilliance in a match that had pre-season stamped all over it with two rusty teams producing plenty of toil but little to warm the 28,288 crowd on a surprisingly cold afternoon in Edinburgh.
Ireland will be satisfied that Rob Kearney, Tomas O'Leary and Jerry Flannery gained match time after returning from lengthy injury lay-offs. Otherwise coach Declan Kidney will have gleaned little new information, although the lively Andrew Trimble will have done his World Cup hopes some good.
Ireland have arranged four internationals to prepare for the tournament in New Zealand, but for Scotland time is more precious with Italy in a fortnight their only other warm-up match.
Their possession was occasionally ragged but coach Andy Robinson will have wanted to see more from centres Graeme Morrison and Ansbro, though the latter redeemed himself with his superb try.
The experimental back row of Alasdair Strokosch, Johnnie Beattie and Ross Rennie had their moments, but failed to provide any go-forward.
The biggest worry for Robinson, however, will be his team's lack of potency, an age-old failing for the Scots whose hesitancy and error-strewn play close to the line let them down time and again until Ansbro struck.
Scotland controlled territory and possession for long spells of a messy encounter, but they were at their best in the first half.
Twice they had early sights of the line, but their ball was slow and they forced their attack in the face of some resolute defending.
It was a nervy start from Ireland, who endured more worrying moments when Morrison was stopped inches short of the whitewash. Another half-chance was blown as Nikki Walker failed to gather a potentially scoring pass just five metres out.
The Irish were relieved when they finally escaped their 22 with quick hands releasing Trimble, only for Sean Cronin to then knock on.
A collapsed scrum gave Scotland their third penalty in 15 minutes and they also won a free-kick at a set-piece shortly after.
Using short inside passes to good effect, the Scots continued to make inroads before an offside saw another promising attack falter.
Sexton went close to producing a moment of brilliance but his lofted ball to Kearney was marginally forward.
The moment sparked a spell of dominance from Ireland and while they looked more decisive on the ball, their lack of dynamism made the defenders' task easy.
The scoreboard finally moved after Sexton landed a penalty but when Scotland were given the same chance within kicking range, they instead opted for a line-out.
The move looked promising until scrum-half Rory Lawson fumbled the ball and although a scrum quickly followed, the Scots' inaccuracy let them down.
Trimble, Ireland's most impressive player, nearly threaded his way though a gap early in the second half.
Scotland squandered a glorious chance to snatch the lead when Beattie intercepted a chip from Luke Fitzgerald.
Instead of taking his time on the ball, he panicked and fed prop Geoff Cross when unmarked openside Rennie was available on his right shoulder.
Paterson slotted a penalty to ensure the move was rewarded, the cue for the match to deteriorate as a spectacle as possession repeatedly changed hands.
Light rain made the conditions slippery and any momentum was not helped by Scotland and Ireland emptying their benches.
Sexton booted a penalty and watched as Paterson missed a very kickable opportunity to level the score, before fluffing a long-range effort himself.
The match finally came alive in its final throes when Ansbro turned on the afterburners with Ruaridh Jackson converting to seal the victory.
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