Ireland ease past poor Scots
Ireland fired an early Six Nations warning with a commanding 28-6 victory over Scotland in Dublin on Sunday.
The day started badly for Ireland and the match got going slowly for them, but at the end they were by far the stronger side and could well be disappointed that they did not win by much more.
Scotland were brave and determined but that was not nearly enough. They have not enough game-breakers.
Stuart Hogg looked the best prospect and did well but beating 15 green shirts was simply not on. In the end, Ireland were outplaying Scotland in every facet of the game.
The bad start to the day for Ireland was the news of the withdrawal of Paul O'Connell. Dan Tuohy stepped up from the bench and had an excellent game and in his place, young Iain Henderson came onto the bench.
It was not that the Scots did not try but their best efforts were a succession of unthreatening phases, which regularly ended in Ireland's favour. Ireland on the other hand had men who with skill and clever passing could make headway.
The penalty count was 11-6 in Ireland's favour; Ireland won five Scottish line-outs and a sixth was skew; Ireland won a tighthead and a free kick at a scrum; and in the end they were the ones able to play with post-tackle possession. There was a large gulf between the two flyhalves with Jonny Sexton brilliant. It could just be a hard Six Nations for the Scots, who ended third last season.
The Scots had a good chance to score a try in the first half when Ireland were leading 6-3 but Dave Denton just failed to reach the goal-line from a scrum.
The Scots started the match with a long series of unchallenging phases which ended in a penalty to Ireland but they had the first chance to score when Chris Henry was penalised for sealing off at a tackle. Greig Laidlaw's kick from 41 metres struck an upright and bounced away. The Scots had another series of phases after a quick line-out but Peter O'Mahony won a turnover.
Ireland came within half a metre of scoring when they drove a maul a long way at the Scottish line but the maul fell down and they lost the put-in at the scrum.
Kelly Brown was penalised for not rolling away at a tackle. 3-0 to Ireland after 13 minutes. Devin Toner was penalised for not rolling away at a tackle. 3-3 after 18 minutes.
There was a bit of variety for the next score – the Scots' backs were up too quickly at a line-out and Ireland led 6-3 after 21 minutes.
Then Scotland had a scrum some 10 metres from Ireland's line. They were under pressure but suddenly Denton broke away with the ball but centimetres from the line, Jamie Heaslip and Dave Kearney managed to get him into touch.
Sean Maitland left the field, dazed and hobbling after a tackle.
Then came a try. Laidlaw got the ball from a line-out and hoofed it downfield. Dave Kearney charged back in counterattack. Conor Murray gave to Sexton about two metres outside of his 22. Suddenly Sexton burst into life, breaking inside Brown and then beating three more Scottish forwards till, two metres from the Scottish 22, he threw a long, perfect pass to Heaslip on his left.
The No.8 bounced off Hogg and managed to cope with Max Evans's attempt to stop him. Heaslip grounded the ball. The referee consulted the TMO who saw that Heaslip had had a foot in touch nanoseconds before grounding the ball.
That produced a line-out to Scotland five metres from their line, which Ireland won. Ireland bashed, Ryan Grant was penalised and Ireland kicked out for a five-metre line-out. They mauled and then went wide right, where Rob Kearney was in the line and gave a perfect pass to Andrew Trimble on the wing and he swept over for the try. Surprisingly, Sexton missed the conversion but that made the half-time score 11-3.
Early in the second half, Devin Toner went into the side of a maul and Laidlaw made it 11-6 after 42 minutes.
Ireland won a tighthead at a scrum and Alex Dunbar was penalised at a tackle, after Hogg had stopped Dave Kearney on his way to the line. Ireland kicked out for a five-metre line-out, formed a maul off catcher Tuohy and raced the maul over the line for a try credited to Jamie Heaslip – or was it Rory Best? Sexton converted.18-6 after 47 minutes.
Jim Hamilton was penalised at a tackle and the referee informed him that whenever there was a suggestion of ill-temper in the match he was always involved. Sexton goaled. 21-6.
Cian Healy burst through two Scots and charged down the middle of the field but the promising opportunity fizzled out.
Martin Moore came on as a substitute for Mike Ross, thus making his debut.
This match was a 50th cap for Rob Kearney and he scored. Tuohy went on the burst and got a clever offload to Henry who burst ahead and gave to Kearney who bamboozled three defenders to stretch and score. 28-6.
That was the final score though athletic Dave Kearney was close to scoring a remarkable try when the ball bounced high in in-goal, near touch-in-goal but the TMO turned it down and the final whistle went.
Man of the Match: Jamie Heaslip, Peter O'Mahony, Rob Kearney and Brian O'Driscoll all had great games but our choice is calm and creative Jonny Sexton.
Moment of the Match: Jonny Sexton's break.
Villain of the Match: Nobody.
Tries: Trimble, Heaslip, R Kearney
Cons: Sexton 2
Pens: Sexton 3
Pens: Laidlaw 2
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 David Kearney, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 Kelly Brown (captain), 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Matt Scott, 23 Max Evans.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)