In the Irish press yesterday there was talk of a phoenix rising from the ashes. All of a sudden, Ireland's World Cup meltdown has been forgotten. Eddie O'Sullivan is seen as being on the brink not of the sack as head coach but of picking up where he left off in Rome at the end of last season's Six Nations Championship.
Playing under floodlights for the first time at the cathedral of Gaelic sport, Ireland produced the kind of dazzle that had got lost somewhere in between their eight-try, 51-point flourish against Italy last spring and the dark age of their World Cup campaign in France last autumn.
It helped that Scotland had no cutting edge to go with their total domination of the opening quarter, and also that the visitors proceeded to go AWOL in defence. Still, O'Sullivan's men ran in five tries for the first time since that visit to the Eternal City a seeming eternity ago. Irish eyes are not just smiling again but twinkling at the prospect of a fourth Triple Crown in five years, or even a first championship since 1985.
Next up for O'Sullivan's revivalists are Wales at "Croker" on Saturday week, followed by England at Twickenham seven days later. Both opponents have ambitions of their own, though under O'Sullivan's stewardship Ireland have suffered just one defeat against a British side since losing to England five years ago: at the hands of the Grand Slamming Welsh in Cardiff in 2005.
All of which rather tastily tees up the visit of another Slam-seeking Wales team, this time guided by Warren Gatland, a man with a score still to settle in Dublin, having lost his job as Ireland's head coach to O'Sullivan – his assistant – back in 2001. "Inevitably people will be making it out to be a battle between Warren and I," O'Sullivan, the apprentice-turned-master, acknowledged. "He's got Wales playing with the same sort of pep that they had in 2005. But they've got to come to Dublin. This is our back yard."
Unlike Scotland in Dublin on Saturday evening. After all of their unfulfilled early promise, Frank Hadden's side fell for a sucker punch the first time Ireland got inside their 22-metre line, with 22 minutes on the clock. Breaking from the back of a five-metre scrum, No 8 Jamie Heaslip threw the Scottish defence out wide before slipping an inside pass for David Wallace to stroll through an open barn door. Rob Kearney exploited another gap two minutes later.
Geordan Murphy took the official man-of-the-match award for a fine swashbuckling full-back display. When it came to the individual plaudits department, though, it was difficult to look beyond Ronan O'Gara. Ireland's outside-half was at his outstanding best, playing a vital role in that second score with a jinking half-break, placing the third try on a silver platter for Marcus Horan with a cross-kick into the right corner and brilliantly oiling the wheels for the first of the brace Tommy Bowe bagged in the final quarter with a sublime flick pass to Andrew Trimble. All Scotland could muster was a consolation try by Simon Webster, plus two penalties and a conversion from Chris Paterson.
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); T Bowe (Ulster), B O'Driscoll (capt, Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster), R Kearney (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Wasps);M Horan (Munster), B Jackman (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), M O'Driscoll (Munster), D Leamy (Munster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: R Best (Ulster) for Jackman, 44; P O'Connell (Munster) for M O'Driscoll, 54; S Easterby (Llanelli) for Heaslip, 70; S Horgan (Leinster) for B O'Driscoll, 70; P Stringer (Munster) for Reddan, 71; T Buckley (Ulster) for Hayes 72; P Wallace (Ulster) for O'Gara, 75.
Scotland: H Southwell (Edinburgh); R Lamont (Sale), S Webster (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), N Walker (Ospreys); C Paterson (Gloucester), M Blair (capt, Edinburgh); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), N Hines (Perpignan), S MacLeod (Llanelli), A Strokosch (Gloucester), A Hogg (Edinburgh), K Brown (Glasgow). Replacements: R Rennie (Edinburgh) for Brown, 45; J Hamilton (Leicester) for Hines, 64; D Parks (Gloucester) for Southwell, 66; F Thomson (Glasgow) for Ford, 69; N De Luca (Edinburgh) for Henderson, 69; G Kerr (Edinburgh) for Jacobsen, 71; C Cusiter (Perpignan) for Blair, 71; Ford for Murray, 75.
Referee: C Berdos (France).Reuse content