Ireland 28 Scotland 6 match report: Scotland are brushed aside but Joe Schmidt vexed at Welsh extra time
Result puts Ireland top of the table after the opening weekend
Sunday 02 February 2014
Joe Schmidt barely had time to savour his first Six Nations victory as Ireland coach as he identified Wales’ seven-day turnaround as a “massive advantage” going into their game with the reigning champions next Saturday.
Ireland saw off Scotland on Sunday at Lansdowne Road with tries from Andrew Trimble and captain Jamie Heaslip either side of half-time doing the job. However, Schmidt maintained that Warren Gatland’s team have already got the jump on Ireland having played in the early game on Saturday.
Scotland's Max Evans is tackled by Rob Kearney (left) and Dave Kearney “It’s hard to quantify, but it is massive to have a six versus seven-day turnaround,” said Schimdt. “One of the things they [Wales] can do is rest up overnight and will be sitting there watching our game with a full focus on what they’re doing for next week. It’s a massive advantage, just the quality of training you can do, I don’t think on Tuesday we’ll do a lot and we’ll try to ramp it up for one training session on Thursday so it’s a pretty narrow window of preparation.”
Relief was an overriding emotion at the final whistle for the Irish camp who suffered the withdrawal of their captain Paul O’C onnell early yesterday morning after he was struck down with a chest infection. The reshuffle elevated Ulster second row Dan Tuohy into the starting XV and his industrial strengths certainly stood out in a contest that was more ferocity than finesse.
The early exchanges were typical of an opening-round encounter between two teams who hadn’t played since November and were still trying to shake off an element of stiffness.
Initially the tactics looked rudimentary but astute. Scotland sought to get Sean Maitland’s hands on the ball as often as possible and the New Zealand-raised winger kept appearing off the blindside or in the wider midfield channels as the Scots looked to expose Brian O’Driscoll’s perceived lack of pace in defence.
However, the Irish centre responded by making 14 tackles (a team high) which prompted Schmidt to compare the 35-year-old to Benjamin Button. All joking aside, however, Schmidt added that the Irish coaches had expected Scotland to target their midfield of O’D riscoll and Luke Marshall.
As for Maitland, his luminous yellow boots would flicker only until the 32nd minute when he came off worse in an aerial battle with Ireland’s Rob Kearney. As Maitland fell his studs planted into the turf causing him to wrench his knee in the most unforgiving manner. Scotland coach Scott Johnson confirmed that Maitland had also been concussed and an update on his condition will be issued later today.
There was an early confrontational edge to the Scots play which was borne out of Glasgow’s habit of frustrating Schmidt’s Leinster sides in the past where they always found a way to pour sand on the gearbox.
With nine Glasgow players in the team you could see the shrewdness of the intention but at this level it is a tactic rarely lasts the course of 80 minutes and despite the reputation for Schmidt teams to play high-octane rugby they are always comfortable to defend for long periods.
“Yeah we did [try the Glasgow example] and I think in the first half we did OK with the way we were playing, the territory and the possession favoured us,” said Johnson afterwards.
“The beauty of the group is that they’ll take [this defeat] on the chin, we’re not going to pretend it’s something else. We may have to go to a dark place and bring some torches. There’s a naivety in some aspects but we’ll get there by having time in the saddle.”
The first crack in the Scottish armour came on 38 minutes as Lions fly-half Jonathan Sexton jinked in and out of three tackles before zinging a 20-yard pass to Irish captain Jamie Heaslip, who showed power and dexterity to twist inside Max Evans and place the ball on the line. However, the back rower would have needed the tip-toes of a ballerina to remain inside the field of play and the try was rightly chalked off by the TV referee.
Still, no matter, as it only took a minute or two for Ireland to cash in on the swing of momentum as Scotland’s lineout – so often the bedrock of their best displays in the championship – had spewed enough black smoke to spark an environmental protest and they coughed up their fourth one of the day within yards of their own line.
Soon after Craig Joubert punished an offside infringement and rather than take the points on offer Heaslip instructed Sexton to kick to touch. Finally the lineout drive found another gear and after scrum-half Conor Murray released the backline Ulster winger Trimble was on hand to make the most of the numerical advantage on the right-hand touchline.
That score put Ireland into an 11-3 lead at the break with Sexton having kicked two penalties to Greig Laidlaw’s solitary success. The cocktail of indiscipline and inaccuracy hurt Scotland again early in the second half as Heaslip benefitted from an Irish lineout maul which rumbled over with plenty of room to spare and this time Sexton slotted the conversion and at 18-3 the competition was over.
From there fatigue and risk-taking from the visitors loosened the collar on the game while the Irish replacements provided an energy that lifted the tempo. With less than 10 minutes to play the conditions resulted in Rob Kearney powering his way to the line to celebrate his 50th cap with a try and Sexton converted to take his tally to 13 points.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s match with Wales, Heaslip agreed that working out their tactics was not a job reserved for rocket scientists.
“While Wales play a very simple game, they play it very well and very hard and in rugby all you have to do is do the basics right and they have forwards who can get quick ball for a very big backline,” said Heaslip. “We’ll have our work cut out for us.”
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