Sexton boot saves Irish blushes
SIX NATIONS MATCH REPORT: Ireland ended Scotland’s championship hopes with a 27-24 victory at Murrayfield in a thrilling encounter on Sunday.
Johnny Sexton’s penalty shortly before full-time ended the contest after the Scots had fought back from 10-24 down to level at 24-all with less than seven minutes remaining.
Ireland now has six successive wins over the Scots.
Ireland, who have lost to both Wales and France, ends their tournament against England next Saturday, with the Scots hosting Italy – although they still have to play France as well.
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“We’re just letting in soft tries, which is not acceptable at international level, and it is a little frustrating as we dominated the game,” said a relieved Ireland captain Sexton.
“But, if we can finish second after a poor start to the Six Nations, we’ll be happy.”
Ireland started well putting together several good phases in their first attack getting close to the tryline.
The Scots were probably relieved to just concede three points from the boot of Johnny Sexton.
Ireland came away wth a try from their next foray into Scottish territory.
Sexton’s crossfield kick patted back by Keith Earls inside the goalline area despite the attention of Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris – for Robbie Henshaw to touch down.
Sexton failed to add the extra two points with his conversion coming back off a post.
Finn Russell got the hosts off the mark in the 12th minute with a penalty for an 8-3 scoreline.
The Irish had the upper hand in terms of territory, but again they failed to hammer it home coming away with nothing when penalised close to the tryline.
The Scots moved ahead for the first time in comic scrappy fashion.
Hogg charged down a Garry Ringrose kick and running on to try and gather it, the bounce of the ball cannoned off his chin.
Hogg prodded the ball inside into the Irish 22 with Russell running hard to get to it.
He got a boot onto it which Ireland wing James Lowe tried to catch, but inadvertently patted it into a grateful Russell’s hands who ran over to touch down for his seventh try for his country.
Russell converted for 10-8.
Sexton put Ireland back into the lead with a penalty for 11-10 with Russell slapping his hands in frustration after he missed an opportunity to nose the Scots back in front.
Sexton made no such mistake as on the stroke of half-time he added another penalty to give the Irish a 14-10 lead.
The visitors came out of the blocks firing at the beginning of the second-half and Tadhg Beirne forced his way over to touch down.
Sexton wisely added the extras as quickly as possible for 21-10, as Hogg asked referee Romain Poite to review the decision claiming Hamish Watson had got his arm under the ball as Beirne went over.
Sexton put the Irish two converted tries ahead in the 55th minute with a penalty for 24-10.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend rang the changes then and one of those he sent on, Huw Jones, made his mark within five minutes.
The 27-year-old centre exposed Lowe’s weakness in defence in brushing him and Hugo Keenan aside and then broke Jamison Gibson-Park’s tackle to go over.
Hogg added the conversion for 24-17 to set the game up perfectly with 20 minutes remaining.
Lowe’s travails carried on apace as with Ireland in good field position he sent a pass into touch well out of a despairing Ringrose’s grasp.
Scotland camped inside the Irish 22 with the visitors being penalised on several occasions.
At one point Poite spoke with Sexton and had to call him back telling the 35-year-old flyhalf as he turned away “don’t be scared” to talk to me.
The pressure told eventually with Watson squirming over showing great strength to touch down – Hogg added the conversion to make it all square at 24-all with just over five minutes remaining.
However, Sexton’s cool head saw the Irish inch 27-24 ahead converting a penalty from the touchline and they held on for a much-needed win.
Man of the match: Hard-working forwards Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson were top of the Scottish pile. Tadhg Beirne was certainly Ireland’s most productive player, but it was the boot of Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton that won the match – five penalties and a conversion. He wins our award.
Moment of the match: Five great tries, with the Hamish Watson sore – when he wriggled his way over through a pile of bodies in the 73td minute the pick of the bunch. However, the Johnny Sexton penalty in the 76th minute won the match for Ireland.
Villain: No villains
Tries: Russell, Jones, Watson
Cons: Russell, Hogg 2
Tries: Henshaw, Beirne
Pens: Sexton 5
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Willem Nel, 2 George Turner, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Nick Haining, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Darcy Graham.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Will Connors, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Jordan Larmour.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Alex Ruiz (France)