O'Sullivan's sharp selection sinks Scots

Scotland 13 Ireland 40
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Scotland 13

Scotland 13

Tries Southwell, Petrie

Penalty Paterson

Half-time: 8-18

Ireland 40

Tries O'Kelly, O'Connell, Hickie, Hayes, Duffy

Cons O'Gara 2, Humphreys

Penalties O'Gara 3

Att: 67,800

After the final whistle sounded at the home of Caledonian rugby on Saturday night - the final final whistle, that is - the Scotland players celebrated at pitch-side while the vanquished Irish gathered around their coach for a prolonged post-mortem of a huddle in the centre of the churned-up arena. So much, however, for the women's Six Nations contest that followed the main event on Murrayfield's double bill.

At the first final whistle of the day - before the Scottish women's XV took the field in a near-emptied arena with Paula Chalmers, sister of Craig, in the No 9 shirt - there was no Caledonian euphoria. And only one Irish soul in the packed-to-the-rafters place was left mourning defeat.

A member of the Irish Triple Crown class of 1985, Willie Anderson now works as forwards coach to the Scottish men's squad. Once upon a time, in his Ireland playing days, the big lock-cum-back-row was jailed and then held under house arrest in Buenos Aires for attempting to smuggle an Argentinian flag out of the country. Such was the engulfing mood of doom in the wake of the home side's dramatic capitulation, a white sheet might well have replaced the Saltire on the main flagpole at Murrayfield.

After all of the promise shown in the heroic defeat in the Stade de France seven days previously, and the 20 minutes of equally impressive domination on Saturday, Scotland proceeded to surrender their highest points deficit in 125 years of competition against Ireland on home turf.

Under the guidance of Matt Williams, the Scots have lost all seven matches they have contested in the Six Nations Championship. They have not won at Murrayfield since Williams replaced Ian McGeechan 15 months ago.

Where they go to from here is back to the drawing board, in preparation for the visit of Italy on 26 February. In the aftermath of this capitulation Williams ventured the opinion that Ireland were "at the top of their cycle" but demurred at the follow-up suggestion that Scotland might be at the bottom of theirs. Not since 1954, however, have the Scots stirred their porridge with a wooden spoon after successive whitewashes in the championship.

Where Ireland go is back to the emerald green grass of home for Lansdowne Road contests against England and France - with the prospect of a possible Grand Slam decider looming down the line against Wales in Cardiff, where they last lost in 1983, when Elgan Rees, now a prospective father-in-law to Simon Easterby, Ireland's blind-side flanker, ran in the last of three Welsh tries.

In the starkest of contrasts to Williams, his one-time understudy as coach to the Ireland A team, Eddie O'Sullivan is building a Six Nations record of ever-increasing distinction. Saturday's emphatic turnaround made it 10 wins out of 12 in the championship for him. He also boasts three wins out of three at Murrayfield, where no Irish coach managed a victory between 1985 and 2003.

There is some debate about whether the Cork man is known as the "Dagger" because of his reputed goal-scoring prowess as a teenage five-a-side footballer or because he happens to be sharp operator. It is just as well, though, that he kept his hands by his sides at Murrayfield; had he brushed any part of his anatomy, the wound would have been deep.

With Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy hamstrung and back in Dublin and Scotland steamrollering out of the traps, Ireland were on the back foot with their backs pressed firmly against the wall for virtually the whole of the opening quarter. The Championship favourites looked in grave danger of being hit for six when Chris Paterson raced through the middle and set up Hugo Southwell, a one-time all-rounder with Sussex County Cricket Club, for a score in the right corner.

What happened thereafter, however, spoke volumes for the shrewdness of O'Sullivan. Without the golden boys in the threequarters, Ronan O'Gara kicked for the corners and the Irish pack mauled the Scots into submission. Malcolm O'Kelly and Paul O'Connell - the former producing a big-game performance to mark his crowning as Ireland's most-capped player with 70, the latter summoning an even bigger one as stand-in team leader - both drove over from close range.

And when Denis Hickie scored in the left corner five minutes into the second-half - in the process equalling O'Driscoll's record 25-try haul - it was game over. John Hayes and Gavin Duffy merely rubbed salt into Scottish sores with their tries in the dying minutes.

It was a job ultimately well done, and planned to near-perfection by Ireland's coach. "We've learned to keep our composure," O'Sullivan said, reflecting on the successful negotiation of hurdles one and two in the championship stakes. "We've also learned to be patient and to change our game plan based on what we have available to us."

As for Williams, he was left facing the question of whether he would consider tendering his resignation.

"Absolutely not," he replied. "I'm here for the long haul. If you look at Ireland five years ago they were really struggling with the same group of players who they've stuck with and who were out there today. That's where our group could be in a few years."

It was difficult to tell, but outside the interview room the whooshing sound might have been a squadron of pigs flying over Murrayfield - either that or a Paula Chalmers kick soaring over the crossbar.

Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh); S Danielli (Borders), A Craig (Glasgow), H Southwell (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Glasgow); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Borders); T Smith (Northampton), G Bulloch (Glasgow, capt), G Kerr (Leeds), S Grimes (Newcastle), S Murray (Edinburgh), J White (Sale), J Petrie (Glasgow), A Hogg (Edinburgh). Replacements: M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter, 71; B Douglas (Borders) for Kerr, 71; N Hines (Edinburgh) for Murray, 71.

Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester); G Dempsey (Leinster), S Horgan (Leinster), K Maggs (Ulster), D Hickie (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); R Corrigan (Leinster ) S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster, capt), S Easterby (Llanelli), J O'Connor (Wasps), A Foley (Munster). Replacements: E Miller (Leinster) for O'Connor, 66; F Sheahan (Munster) for Byrne, 72; M Horan (Munster) for Corrigan, 72; D O'Callaghan (Munster) for O'Kelly, 75; G Easterby (Leinster) for Stringer, 75; D Humphreys (Ulster) for O'Gara, 75; G Duffy (Harlequins) for Hickie, 75.

Referee: J Jutge (France).

Man of the match

Paul O'Connell. Ireland took their lead from the stand-in captain. A towering influence and a huge driving force.

Moment of the match

Kevin Maggs' smash and grab on Ally Hogg. Set up Denis Hickie for the vital score - via a brilliant Ronan O'Gara pass.

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