VIDEO: Sexton saves the day for Ireland
SIX NATIONS REPORT: Johnny Sexton scored all Ireland’s points to give new coach Andy Farrell a 19-12 victory over Scotland in his first match in charge.
It was a nail-biting encounter at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
Sexton scored a try and kicked the rest to take his Test tally for the Irish past 800 points.
However, the hosts got out of jail as Scotland missed a host of chances, the most glaring when captain Stuart Hogg dropped the ball going to touch down for a try.
The loss leaves the Scots without a win in Dublin since 2010.
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“Scotland are a super team,” Ireland flank Peter O’Mahony said.
“Every time we play each other it’s borderline warfare. It’s testament to the way they showed up. They tested us incredibly.”
“Pretty gutted,” Scotland prop Zander Fagerson said.
“Played some great rugby, got some opportunities, just not clinical enough in their 22.”
The Scots took the early lead, Adam Hastings landing a penalty.
The Irish hit back with interest, Sexton going over for his 13th try for his country after being fed by his long-time halfback partner Conor Murray.
Sexton converted for 7-3.
Hastings filling in for usual number one Finn Russell, who was dropped after falling foul of the team rules, showed few nerves on his first Six Nations start. He cut the deficit to a point with another penalty just as the game hit the quarter of an hour.
The Irish defence did some sterling work as the Scots who did all the pressing. The highlight was veteran O’Mahony, who had come on for debutant Caelan Doris, turning the ball over on his line.
There was an edge to the match with the Irish especially riled when Jordan Larmour appeared to be tripped and almost immediately Hamish Watson caught Sexton’s cheek with a shoulder.
Irish pleas went unanswered by referee Mathieu Raynal.
The Scots in contrast had their tails up, with Hogg pumping the air when they forced a turnover at Sexton’s expense.
Hastings missed a chance to restore the Scottish lead, kicking a penalty wide.
Instead Sexton passed the 800 point mark for his country with a delightful long-range penalty.
Christiaan Stander produced some magnificent Irish defence to prevent the Scots taking advantage of a counter-attack after Sam Johnson intercepted Murray’s pass deep inside Scottish territory.
Sexton knocked over a penalty early in the second-half to push the score to 13-6.
The Scots wasted a succession of chances, the most glaring when Hogg, needing just to touch the ball down, dropped it as he crossed the line without a defender near to him.
“Hoggy’s just unlucky it slips out his hand,” Fagerson said. “Nine out of 10 times he scores that.”
The visitors had to make do with another penalty from Hastings for 13-9.
Sexton made it 16-9.
Hastings reduced the deficit to four points with a penalty as the Irish were once again on the back foot.
The Scots habit of giving away soft points continued with Johnson blocking Andrew Conway and fortunate not to receive a yellow card.
Sexton accepted the gift of three points willingly to leave the Scots requiring a converted penalty to tie the match.
The Scots camped on the Irish line but another period of outstanding defence saw the Irish hold out — man of the match Stander once again forcing a turnover.
“That was a great benchmark for us to kick on into the rest of the campaign,” said O’Mahony.
Pens: Sexton 4
Pens: Hastings 4
Ireland: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Conor Murray, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Christiaan Stander, 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 Devin Toner, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 John Cooney, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Robbie Henshaw.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Chris Harris.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)