Ireland march past Scotland and give the World Cup a performance to fear

Ireland 36-14 Scotland: Ireland secure top spot in Pool B with a magnificent display in Paris to knock Scotland out of the World Cup

Harry Latham-Coyle
at the Stade de France
Sunday 08 October 2023 00:50 BST
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Hugo Keenan scored twice as Ireland tore Scotland apart
Hugo Keenan scored twice as Ireland tore Scotland apart (Reuters)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The pool of death chose its victim; Ireland decisively wielded the scythe. So much for nip-and-tuck contest befitting a knockout occasion – Scotland were swept away like flotsam in a sea of Irish green. If their win over the Springboks was a statement of Rugby World Cup candidacy, here was the sort of showing to strike fear into opponents to come, perhaps the best performance of a winning run now extended through a 17th game.

Just as a fortnight ago against South Africa, Irish visitors made their way in their thousands down the Parisienne walkways into their home away from home, the Stade de France verdant and vibrant throughout. How their fans will now believe that there might even be three more nights like this, with only a handful of injury frets to count as the cost from a performance of Celtic colossi.

It will be the All Blacks next Saturday night for Ireland, a mighty foe to be conquered. If this isn’t the year that the last eight hoodoo is ended, then perhaps it never will be. Certainly it will take some side to wipe away the emerald smile.

After so much talk in the week about the need to get their first 20 minutes right, it took only 63 seconds for Scotland’s hopes of a fast start to be washed away. In Ireland’s first attacking movement, Garry Ringrose spotted a lock lumbering in a wide channel, with Grant Gilchrist beaten on the inside. Ringrose found Mack Hansen, who tipped on to James Lowe. Ireland were up and away.

The early score led Scotland to conclude that this was not a night upon which penalties would do. Thrice in the first 15 minutes, Scotland turned down kickable opportunities to instead punt for touch; thrice they were repelled, pushed back by the swell of the irrepressible Irish defensive tide.

Not all escaped the first quarter, Blair Kinghorn an early withdrawal after suffering a head injury and Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie off with an injured arm before the 20-minute mark, too. For Ireland, Mack Hansen was removed for his own head injury check before making a permanent departure; a bloodied Lowe battled on.

Hansen’s departure had necessitated a reshuffle, with Stuart McCloskey on and both Bundee Aki and Ringrose pushed one spot out. It mattered not for their second score, a set-piece strike executed seamlessly, Sexton putting Aki through a half-hole before Ringrose gave Hugo Keenan a canter home. The cogs may have been rearranged but the Irish clock just seems to keep on ticking.

Hugo Keenan bursts through Scotland for his first try
Hugo Keenan bursts through Scotland for his first try (Reuters)

The third followed soon enough, Iain Henderson’s green fingers planting into a fertile flowerbed from close range. By now, the Scottish ship, shorn of its skipper, was listing badly, Keenan’s second securing a first-half bonus point and taking Ireland out of sight.

It soon went from bad to worse for Gregor Townsend’s side. An almighty fracas was sparked by Ollie Smith’s trip of Johnny Sexton, with the replacement full-back shown yellow.

Ireland took advantage. Lowe had not re-emerged after the interval, with Jamison Gibson-Park forced on to the wing and fulfilling his duties expertly. Gibson-Park’s dart up the right wing took his side into Scotland’s 22, and a couple of phases later he was running out to the left to deliver a try-scoring pass to Dan Sheehan on the wide outside.

Iain Henderson lunges for the line and Ireland’s third try
Iain Henderson lunges for the line and Ireland’s third try (Getty Images)

At Murrayfield in March, Ireland had played more than half-an-hour with a prop and flanker filling in at hooker; here, an entire 40 minutes with Ringrose and Gibson-Park on the wings. No matter the questions, Ireland keep on finding the answers.

That fifth try was the cue for Sexton to depart, the pool sewn up with more than 30 minutes to spare. The Irish tight five forwards soon followed their captain to the bench, resting up for another Stade de France rendezvous next Saturday.

Jack Crowley’s cross-kick gave Ringrose a score of his own, before replacement Scotland hooker Ewan Ashman got his side, belatedly, on the board. Ali Price’s magnificent second Scotitsh score was a thing of beauty from the backs but it mattered not bar the final accounting – the damage was already, decisively, done. It will take some side to wipe away the emerald smile.

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