White embodies Scots' new work ethic

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The Independent Online

The bulldozers are due to move in at Lansdowne Road next winter, but yesterday the man in the blue No 6 shirt performed a fair JCB impression in the final Six Nations contest to be played at the old ground in its traditional guise. Twelve minutes into the second half Jason White hit Jerry Flannery with such force the aftershock might have reverberated all the way to the Flannery family bar in Limerick.

When it came to the crunch, though, it was the ball-and-chain swing of Ronan O'Gara's right boot that won the day. It was a momentous one for Ireland, who pitch up at Twickenham next Saturday with a chance of a second Triple Crown in three years and a first championship title since 1985.

For all the granite Scottish resistance, White and his men could not pull off another famous penalty shoot-out victory, an encore to their 18-12 Calcutta Cup overture.

They did, however, register another try shut-out - as the first international visitors to Lansdowne Road succeeded in doing back in March 1878. England won by two goals and a try to nil that afternoon in a game that featured the first international try scored by a full-back, one W J Penny of King's College Hospital.

There were no tries yesterday in a Lansdowne finale rich in the prosaic and impoverished in the creative. Still, at a venue that was first used to stage athletics - in the days when Abraham Stoker was Dublin's most celebrated race-walker (and not yet known to the world as Bram) - it was too gripping to be a complete shocker.

For the Scots, of course, it was another stage in the rebuilding job being undertaken by F Hadden Construction Ltd, with more than a little help from the sub-contractors, A Tait Brick Walls. At Murrayfield two weeks ago their rising structure was solid enough to keep England from their line, a feat that proved beyond Graham Henry's All Blacks at Twickenham last November. Yesterday they changed their locks but still managed to keep the door shut.

The selection of Scott Murray and Nathan Hines in the second row seemed a shrewd enough move by Hadden, given Scotland's need to disrupt all possible supply lines to the Irish midfield. It was easy enough at lunchtime as they went through their line-out paces in a corner of St Stephen's Green.

To the bemusement of pram-pushing couples and duck-feeding toddlers, the men from Musselburgh (Murray) and Wagga Wagga (Hines) climbed as high as the Yeats Memorial statue to pluck possession from the air. That, however, was without the small hindrance of opposition - though Sean Lamont, stretching with his fellow backs nearby, was good-naturedly accosted by an Irish fan dressed as His Holiness in tricolour robes.

When it came to contending with the terrible beauty of Paul O'Connell and Malcolm O'Kelly, it was rather different. Scotland failed to win four of their first seven throw-ins. They did, however, manage to batten down the hatches elsewhere.

When Brian O'Driscoll waltzed in a hat-trick of tries against Scotland in Dublin four years ago, Bill McLaren memorably lamented: "The Scottish midfield opened up like the Gobi Desert." Yesterday an excess of water from above came as a relief to the midfield men in blue, the Irish threequarters spilling possession whenever they threatened to whip up a head of attacking steam. That - and a defensive formation so in-your-face as to be perpetually stretching the offside line - proved sufficient to keep the Irish at bay.

It was another measure of how far Scotland have come in a short space of time. Twelve months ago at Murrayfield they conceded 40 points and five tries to an Irish side missing O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy. That was a seventh defeat in seven Six Nations matches for Matt Williams as Scotland coach and there were more than eyebrows raised when he said: "Scotland could be where Ireland are today in a few years' time." Eyes shot up to the Edinburgh skies, lest a squadron of swine should be flying overhead.

Yesterday they couldn't quite bring home the bacon, but Scotland were still off the ground and climbing as a serious Six Nations force.

THE NUMBERS GAME

IRELAND/SCOTLAND

11 Scrums won 8

0 Scrums lost 0

21 Line-outs won 22

0 Line-outs lost 8

5 Penalties conceded 9

4 Turnovers won 10

175 Passes completed 98

7 Line breaks 2

47 Possession kicked 43

58 Tackles made 102

10 Tackles missed 14

21 Total errors 16

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