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
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there