It was the Scots’ heaviest loss of 2020, a year in which they have played nine Test matches, winning five and losing four.
The visitors impressed for much of the first half but paid a heavy price for Duncan Taylor’s yellow card nine minutes before half-time. The inside centre was penalised for a deliberate knock-on as he tried to halt Bundee Aki. Scotland led 9-3 at that point but Ireland kicked the resultant penalty and scored a try through Keith Earls before half-time to turn the game.
With Taylor in the sin-bin, Scotland struggled. They also conceded far too many penalties as Ireland turned the screw in the second half.
“We’re a work in progress,” said the Scotland coach. “I thought the first 35 minutes was some of the best rugby we’ve played all year and that was probably above expectations given it was a new team today - a new 10 and a new 12.
“The first 35 minutes were great, we were physical in defence, physical in attack, finding space. The disappointing and frustrating thing is what happened in the 10-15 minutes after that. Yes, you want to see that long-term development and the team improving but you come here to win games and we went from a position where we felt we could kick on and win that game to one where it went away from us.”
Another try from Earls, plus one from Cian Healy, gave Ireland a commanding lead early in the second half and although Duhan van der Merwe reduced the deficit with a fine score after 55 minutes, it was not enough.
Townsend had no complaints about Taylor’s yellow card which seemed to change the game’s momentum.
“You take a risk when you’re coming up to shut down the tackle if the player gets the pass away, and we’ve seen yellow cards given in the past,” said the coach. “That put us under a lot of pressure in our 22, being a man down. Ireland had a lot of possession for that period.
“Obviously the penalty and the yellow card when it happened gave them three points. But we gave away a good few penalties at the beginning of the second half and errors happened which allowed Ireland to get into our 22 much more easily than they had in the first half.
“It denied us possession, too. I felt we were building really well with the way we were defending, forcing Ireland to kick and, when we had the ball, looking really dangerous. But in that 10-15 minute period at the beginning of the second half Ireland got the ball through penalties and some errors and they did really well with it. I thought they played really well, and carried hard in our 22 in the second half.”
The defeat extended Scotland’s winless run in Dublin to an 11th year and consigned Townsend’s side to a fourth-place finish in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.