Kidney at a loss after Irish stung by Killer Bs
Ireland 20 Scotland 23
Deep in the bowels of the great Gaelic sporting cathedral, Declan Kidney was trying to come to terms with his side's choker of a farewell to Croker – and with an Old Mother Hubbard of a feeling, the formal leaving present of a Triple Crown having failed to materialise for Ireland and their head coach on Saturday evening. Andy Robinson was empty-handed too. "I've just had a text from a mate, saying 'Failure: you didn't win the Wooden Spoon'," Scotland's head honcho revealed, to great amusement all round, when asked where his team's party-pooping success might rank in the portfolio of his coaching achievements.
In his time as Clive Woodward's right-hand man with England, Robinson racked up a World Cup, a Grand Slam and three Six Nations titles. His time in full charge of the Red Rose reins was less successful, but in the course of his first season as Scotland supremo the old Bath, England and Lions flanker has shown his proficiency for knocking a bunch of players into decent shape.
He inherited a squad of little-hopers and has moulded them into a highly-efficient unit that beat Australia in the autumn and who could and should have beaten Wales, Italy and England en route to championship denouement day in Dublin. Not that very many of the natives saw Saturday's contest as anything of a D-Day for Ireland.
Scotland succeeded where the world champion South Africans failed last autumn, claiming the scalp of the Irish at Croke Park. They did so in a fashion that had their head coach's hallmark all over it. They have their brilliant Killer Bs in the back row – Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie – but, above all, Robinson's Scotland have an unwavering worker-bee ethic.
On Saturday, they defended as a swarm, when Ireland looked to cut loose in the opening 10 minutes and when Tommy Bowe's five-pointer midway through the second half put the whiff of the Triple Crown back into Irish nostrils. The Scots stung back after Jonathan Sexton fashioned a peach of a try for Brian O'Driscoll in the 11th minute, Beattie galloping through three tacklers to score.
Scotland stirred up a hornets' nest of confusion for the much-vaunted home line-out, taking seven steals in total, and caused similar mayhem for the Irish at scrum time and at the breakdown. Crucially, the Scots also had Dan Parks continually buzzing away at the scoreboard. In the end, with the scores tied at 20-20 and less than two minutes left on the clock, it came down to the penalty Parks nailed with nerves of steel.
As Scotland's No 10 was swift to point out, though, he would never have been presented with the match-winning opportunity had Simon Danielli and Nick de Luca not whizzed after his cross-field kick and forced Rob Kearney to concede the penalty for not releasing. It was a victory for the Caledonian worker-bee collective, although it was Parks who drew the vital sting in the championship tail – quite a transformation for the Glasgow outside-half: from Desperate Dan, out of the Scotland picture seemingly for good at the start of the season, deemed too error-prone for the international game, to Dan the Man, an orchestrator supreme, with a trio of Six Nations Man of the Match trophies for his mantelpiece.
"Dan deserves a massive pat on the back," Robinson acknowledged, "but it has not just been about Dan Parks. It has been about the work of the other 14 players who have given him the room to do what he has done." Not least of them Graeme Morrison, the big Glasgow inside-centre, who has also developed under Robinson's guidance into a player of infinitely greater stature than had been previously deemed possible.
All of which makes for a happy Scottish camp as they prepare for the challenge of a summer tour to Argentina. As for Ireland, where do the Grand Slammers of 12 months ago go from here?
Ireland: Tries O'Driscoll, Bowe; Conversions Sexton, O'Gara; Penalties Sexton, O'Gara. Scotland: Try Beattie; Penalties Parks 5; Drop goal Parks.
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (all Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace, J Heaslip (both Munster). Replacements: R Kearney (Leinster) for Murphy, 26; R O'Gara (Munster) for Sexton, 52; T Buckley (Munster) for Hayes, 79.
Scotland: H Southwell (Stade Français); S Lamont (Scarlets), N De Luca (Edinburgh), G Morrison, M Evans; D Parks (all Glasgow), C Cusiter (Glasgow, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), J Hamilton (Edinburgh), A Kellock (Glasgow), K Brown (Glasgow), J Barclay (Glasgow), J Beattie (Glasgow). Replacements: A MacDonald (Edinburgh) for Brown, 26-34, 38-40, 48-58; M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter, 52; R Gray (Glasgow) for Hamilton, 52; A Dickinson (Gloucester) for Jacobsen, 66; S Lawson (Gloucester) for Ford, 72; S Danielli (Ulster) for Lamont, 74.
Referee: J Kaplan (SA).
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