SCOTLAND'S second-string side continued their fine record at Galashiels with a scintillating second half revival to add Ireland to the scalps of the USA and Tonga in the past 14 months, gain revenge for last year's humbling in Ireland and lift the Scottish game by underlining the burgeoning competition for places.
Yet, it could hardly have looked less auspicious at half-time as Ireland led 13-9, having started much the quicker and more dangerous, and would have gone into the dressing room kicking themselves not to be further in front.
A lot of the pre-match attention was focused on players using this match as a springboard into the RBS Six Nations, with the Scotland coaches Andy Robinson, Gregor Townsend and Graham Steadman all present. No 8 Johnnie Beattie hoped to complete his comeback from injury and without doing anything spectacular he put in a solid 80-minute shift to push himself into the frame. Beattie said afterwards: "It was alright; a mixed bag. It was nice to get a run-out and to get a win in the end. They put us under a lot of pressure early on and I struggled myself to get into the game, but once we changed things and tightened up we managed to assert ourselves and gain control."
On whether he is ready to face France next week, he added: "If the call comes I'm definitely ready, and I know the (Scotland] coaching team were here, but it's at their discretion, as it always is. They have said decisions will be made over the weekend. I don't think that was one of my best games but it was good to get another one under my belt."
Ireland have their Six Nations wannabes too and also had Ireland coaches Declan Kidney and Gert Smal in attendance. Suffering something of a back-three crisis they were paying close attention to Gavin Duffy, the full-back, scrum-half Tomas O'Leary and prop Tony Buckley, all of whom are firmly in the frame to play in Ireland's opening game in Italy next weekend.
O'Leary was a key figure in attack for Ireland, with hand and foot, but was well policed by Greig Laidlaw, who was voted man-of-the-match, before going off after an hour. Buckley made his presence felt, forcing Jon Welsh, the Scots loosehead, to leave the field after 23 minutes, after suffering in a couple of scrums, before being replaced himself at half-time.
David Blair opened the scoring with a penalty after five minutes. A fine lineout take by the hugely impressive Scott MacLeod set the platform for a terrific burst by Lee Jones, which roused the Netherdale crowd, but English referee Greg Garner made a debatable ruck call, which led to a terrific Irish break and try, finished by flanker Willie Faloon.Blair converted from wide on the right to pull the scores back to 7-6 after 14 minutes. The game continued to swing from end to end with the Irish showing great enterprise and running hard to ask real questions of the home defence. However, two poor passes by Scotland contributed to two Irish penalties, Humphreys converting one from two, and the Wolfhounds continued to force the pressure.
Humphreys kicked another penalty but Blair kept Scotland in touch with a third penalty before the interval. A high tackle by Wolfhounds replacement Jamie Hagen forced Thompson off briefly with a bloody nose, but Blair sclaffed the penalty wide. However, with Ben Cairns and MacLeod providing a fine lead, Scotland began to lift their intensity, delighting the impressive home crowd. Fine defence and a good lineout steal returned the pressure and despite the Wolfhounds best, illegal attempts to stop them, Glasgow prop Moray Low finally burst over from a driven lineout. Blair's conversion put Scotland 16-13 ahead with 25 minutes to play.
From that point on the Scots merely tightened their grip, Blair providing reward with a fourth penalty. Laidlaw turned a scrum penalty into three points and a nine-point advantage by taking on a near 50-metre kick and Blair then struck one from long-range too before Hefin O'Hare, the Glasgow wing, put the icing on the cake with a fine last-minute try, converted by Blair, for a margin of victory that should encourage an even better attendance when they return to Netherdale next Friday to face Italy A.
Scorers: Scotland A: Tries - Low, O'Hare; Pens - Blair 5, Laidlaw; Cons - Blair 2. Wolfhounds: Tries - Faloon; Pens - Humphreys 2; Cons - Humphreys.
Scotland A: J Thompson (Edinburgh); H O'Hare (Glasgow), B Cairns, J Houston, L Jones; D Blair, G Laidlaw (all Edinburgh); J Welsh, D Hall (both Glasgow), G Cross, S MacLeod, F McKenzie (all Edinburgh), R Wilson (Glasgow), A MacDonald (Edinburgh), J Beattie (Glasgow). Subs: M Low (Glasgow) for Welsh 23mins, P Murchie (Glasgow) for Thompson 46, R Harley (Glasgow) for Wilson 51, F Thomson (Glasgow) for Hall 67, R Grant (Edinburgh) for MacDonald 72.
Ireland Wolfhounds: G Duffy (Connacht); J Murphy (Munster), E O'Malley (Leinster), N Spence (Ulster), D Hurley (Munster); I Humphreys (Ulster), T O'Leary (Munster); B Wilkinson (Connacht), D Varley (Munster), T Buckley (Munster), I Nagle (Munster), D Toner (Leinster), K McLaughlin (Leinster), W Faloon (Ulster), C Henry (Ulster, capt). Subs: J Hagan (Connacht) for Buckley, I Whitten (Ulster) for Spence, both 40mins, N Brady (Ulster) for Varley, A Browne (Connacht) for Nagle, both 55, D Ryan (Leinster) for McLaughlin 62, I Boss (Leinster) for O'Leary 62, N O'Connor (Ulster) for Humphreys 67.
Referee: G Garner (England)