Ireland 17-13 Scotland verdict: Encouraging performance but Six Nations campaign that promised so much falls flat

Scotland were brave and tenacious but could not repel Ireland as they marched to Six Nations title

You have to go back to the 20th century for the last time Scotland won at Lansdowne Road and the long wait will now stretch into another couple of years.

Gregor Townsend’s side were narrowly beaten here as Ireland clinched the Six Nations title for the second successive season and left the visitors with just two wins from five in the championship, a poor return given their early promise in the campaign. But this was an encouraging performance by the Scots and light years ahead of what they produced against the same opponents at the World Cup in Paris. They lost 17-13 but matched the world’s second best side blow for blow in an absorbing match in which they were disciplined and taught and, in Andy Christie, had the game’s outstanding player. The Saracens flanker was everywhere, a dynamic force of nature for the Scots.

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Huw Jones scored a delightful try but, ultimately, it was too late as Ireland had already snared two of their own through Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter. How Scotland will rue the Sheehan try, gifted to Ireland with a ribbon bow from a Scottish lineout.

Ireland scored two tries in their 17-13 win over Scotland in Dublin.Ireland scored two tries in their 17-13 win over Scotland in Dublin.
Ireland scored two tries in their 17-13 win over Scotland in Dublin.

At the end, there were raucous scenes as Zombie by The Cranberries boomed out and Ireland lifted the Six Nations trophy. Scotland came here looking for the Triple Crown but will go home empty-handed and a sense of what might have been in a campaign that began so promisingly.

The stadium has been rebuilt and rebranded since the Scots won here in 1998 with an Alan Tait try and two penalties apiece from Craig Chalmers and Rowen Shepherd. Townsend’s team may now undergo a rebuild of its own after the failure to capitalise on the impressive performances in rounds one to three which saw Scotland beat Wales and England and lose narrowly to France on the back of a contentious TMO decision. The defeat by Italy in round four cast a pall but at least the performance in Dublin restored some lustre, even if it was their tenth defeat in a row against the Irish.

Scotland started brightly and that’s what will have made the concession of the opening try so infuriating. Christie had charged down a James Lowe clearance kick close to the Irish line but the Scots failed to make the most of the position before Finn Russell kicked them into a 3-0 lead after Lowe had been penalised on the floor.

Scotland then handed Ireland the initiative when Duhan van der Merwe strayed offside and the hosts kicked to the corner. They tried to work a lineout move down the short side but Sheehan was shoved into touch. Scotland then proceeded to make a horrible mess of their own lineout, George Turner’s throw eluding Grant Gilchrist and landing in the arms of Sheehan, who flopped over gratefully for an easy try which Jack Crowley converted.

Andy Christie put in a power of work for Scotland.Andy Christie put in a power of work for Scotland.
Andy Christie put in a power of work for Scotland.

It was the sort of carelessness the Scots could ill afford but they kept their heads and built the phases with some impressively direct carrying. It led to another penalty when Bundee Aki was pinged and Russell reduced the Irish lead to 7-6. It was a good first half from the Scots, with Christie in particular showing up well. Stafford McDowall, playing in the Six Nations for the first time, didn’t look out of place, particularly when he went storming past Aki and up to the Irish 22.

Neither side had established dominance and the lead remained a point after Crowley was off target with a long-range penalty attempt. Blair Kinghorn spied a chance as the clock moved past the 40-minute mark. The full-back chased his own kick into the Irish 22 but Calvin Nash dealt with it and was caught by the galloping Kinghorn. Ireland couldn’t capitalise on the penalty but they came out for the second half looking re-energised. Lowe went haring down the left wing, bouncing off a couple of defenders, before Crowley extended Ireland’s lead to 10-6 after Zander Fagerson was unlucky to be penalised.

These were dangerous moments for Scotland but they defended them well. Aki was stopped in his tracks and then Ireland dropped the ball but play was brought back for a penalty in front of the posts. The home team went for the tap and go and Tadhg Furlong looked to have forced his way over. Matthew Carley, the referee, wasn’t so sure and his on-field decision was ‘no try’ because the ball hadn’t been grounded. The TMO eventually agreed much to the consternation of the home support as Andy Farrell sat stoney-faced in the coaches’ box.

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Ireland felt wronged and redoubled their efforts. Lowe looked certain to score when he cut inside half-a-dozen Scots defenders but Christie – who else? – tackled him brilliantly. The pressure continued but Irish composure was missing and Garry Ringrose dropped the ball with the line beckoning.

Scotland's Huw Jones runs through to score their try.Scotland's Huw Jones runs through to score their try.
Scotland's Huw Jones runs through to score their try.

Scotland recovered and managed to work the ball up to the Irish 22 but coughed up possession, opening the door for Garry Ringrose who stormed up the right wing. He was well tackled by Duhan van der Merwe but it was a momentum-shifter and the Scots were on the back foot again. They couldn’t withstand the pressure this time. Robbie Henshaw looked to have bagged Ireland’s second try but again it wasn’t grounded as Cam Redpath did brilliantly well to hold him up. The TMO calls were going Scotland’s way at last. Alas, it was only a temporary reprieve. Carley had seen Scotland concede three penalties in a row in the build-up and Ewan Ashman, the replacement hooker, was shown the yellow card. Ireland had another close-range penalty and there was no mistake this time, Andrew Porter powering over. Crowley’s successful conversion stretched the lead to 17-6 with 14 minutes remaining.

The 14-men Scots now had a mountain to climb but they held it together until Ashman’s return and they were boosted further when Irish sub Harry Byrne was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Russell. Now the visitors had the extra man and they made it count, Jones wriggling free to score a terrific try off the back of a ruck on the Irish 22. Russell converted to reduce the gap to four points but there was no time to do anything more and Ireland kicked the ball dead soon after. Champions again.