Six Nations: Greig Laidlaw keeps Scotland in the title hunt after Irish implode

Scotland 12 Ireland 8:

For 35 minutes of this contest yesterday, it was nil-nil desperandum. Not a  single point was on the scoreboard. By the final whistle, it was nothing but full-blown desperandum for Ireland.    Declan Kidney’s team produced a  masterclass – if that is the right term – in how to dominate a match yet end up losing it. Ireland had 71 per cent of the possession and 77 per cent of the territory.

Fair play to the Scots. They hung in, dug deep and, with four penalties from Greig Laidlaw’s right boot, somehow managed to claw their way to the most unlikely of victories. Back-to-back winners in the Six Nations for the first time since 2001, Scotland stand third in the championship table, level on points with Wales, who visit Murrayfield on Saturday week.

Even the celebrating natives in the 67,006 crowd must have left wondering how on earth Scott Johnson’s underdogs are still in the hunt for the title. If the Irish squad departed with an inclination to kick themselves, they would have been ill advised to attempt to do so.

Paddy Jackson, their debutant outside half – a cherubic double for Eoin McLove, the young pop sensation in Father Ted – had a dreadful time with the boot, missing three of four place-kicks. The 21-year-old had been a surprise choice to stand in for Jonathan Sexton but, to kick salt into the wounds of an already injury-ravaged Irish side, the decisive moment came when  Ronan O’Gara – the expected selection for the No 10 jersey – took the field as his replacement. In attempting a wildly over-ambitious chip in midfield, the veteran fly-half only succeeded in setting up the Scottish counter-attack that yielded Laidlaw’s clinching penalty.

Much was always going to hinge on the success or otherwise of the Irish 10-12 axis.  Jackson and the similarly callow Luke Marshall were not exactly an untried combination, being provincial colleagues and having played together in the non-cap international against Fiji in November.

Still, on the occasion of their full international debuts, they could have done with a smooth, confident start and, in the first minute, Jackson spilled a pass from scrum-half Conor Murray. He proceeded to make some amends, feeding a slick pass to Marshall, who burst over the gain-line, in between two Scottish defenders,  before throwing a long looping pass out to Keith Earls on the left wing.  

The break came to nought, thanks to some fine scramble defence from the Scots, but the debutant duo followed up with another combination, Marshall taking a feed from Jackson on the scissors and cutting a big hole in the Scottish defence on the right. Sadly for the Irish, the centre’s pass out to Craig Gilroy was far from sharp – flung so far in a forward direction that the winger fumbled the ball to the floor.

Scotland were living off scraps and  pinned on to  the back foot, although Ryan Grant’s failure to retreat 10 metres  when Murray ran a quick tap-penalty earned the loosehead prop a 10-minute stint in the sin-bin. Worryingly for Ireland, though, Jackson then made a mess of the ensuing penalty.

The visitors also made a mess of the golden chance they gleaned from a turnover on halfway. Earls scurried away into the left corner but, with Brian O’Driscoll screaming for an inside pass, the Munsterman found himself shunted into touch by Sean Maitland. Not until the 36th minute did the scoreboard get ticking, Jackson slotting a sitter of a penalty from a  distance of 18 yards.

 



Having been starved of possession and territory for 40 minutes, Scotland found themselves with a chance to level the contest in first-half injury time but Stuart Hogg’s long-range penalty dropped just short of the posts.  Parity would have been a good deal more than the Scots deserved and they reverted to back-foot starvation mode at the start of the second-half.

Within four minutes of the resumption, Ireland had a try on the board. Sean O’Brien did the initial damage with a trademark burst. Then, from a close-range ruck, Murray popped the ball out to Gilroy, who nimbly pirouetted past Ross Ford and over the whitewash.

An outbreak of handbags ensued, the Scot on the floor – notably the tattooed lock Jim Hamilton – seemingly taking exception to Gilroy’s raised-first celebration. It seemed a trivial matter but it was a sign of the spirit and fight that the home side, and their abrasive lock, summoned to retrieve a losing cause.

From 8-0 up, Ireland simply imploded. Jackson struck a post with his conversion attempt and hoofed another penalty haplessly wide. At the other end, Laidlaw was on the money with penalty after penalty, four in total. All of which added up to a defeat that could have painful implications for Kidney when it comes to post-championship reckoning time.

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing