Six Nations

Ireland annihilate Scotland

2015-03-21 18:43
Paul O'Connell (AFP)

Edinburgh - Paul O'Connell played a captain's innings for Ireland in what was likely to be his Six Nations swansong, the veteran lock's first try in the championship for ten years setting his team on their way to a 40-10 victory that put them ahead of Wales in the dramatic last day title race.

The outcome of the championship still depended on the result of England's later kick-off against France at Twickenham (the home side needed to win by 26 points) but Ireland did their best to hold on to their crown, flanker Sean O'Brien bagging a brace of tries and former New Zealand under-21 centre Jared Payne scoring his first try for his adopted country.

Outside half Jonny Sexton weighed in with 18 points from the boot, giving Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt a convincing victory over his former coaching partner Vern Cotter, who presided over a wooden spoon and a whitewash in his first season in charge of the win-less Scots.

Ireland's Grand Slam hopes came to grief with their 23-16 defeat against Wales in Cardiff seven days previously and Wales's 61-20 victory against Italy in Rome left them needing to win by at least 21 points to stay in the hunt for the championship trophy.

That significantly cranked up the pressure on the visitors, who had only scored four tries in their opening four games and who had not won at Murrayfield since 2011.

They showed their intent from their first attack, spinning the ball wide for centre Robbie Henshaw, who was stopped some 12-metres out, and swiftly recycling possession in a multi-phase assault that led to O'Connell picking up the ball from the back of a close range ruck and diving past Scotland lock Jim Hamilton to claim the opening try in the fifth minute.

It was only the 35-year old's third try for his country in the Six Nations, and his first since a five pointer at Murrayfield back in 2004.

Sexton landed the conversion and then nailed a penalty, furnishing Ireland with a 10-0 lead in the tenth minute.

Scotland managed to steady themselves and put points of their own on the board, scrum half and captain Grieg Laidlaw converting a penalty in the 18th minute.

Leinster lock Devin Toner plucked the ball from a line-out in the left corner in the 25th minute and O'Brien scooted through the Scottish defence to score from 10-metres out.

Sexton's successful conversion made it 17-3 to Ireland but they were rocked on the half hour when full back Rib Kearney failed to gather a bouncing ball and Stuart Hogg picked up to add momentum to a Scottish attack that culminated in flanker Adam Ashe feeding outside-half Finn Russell for his maiden international try -- Scotland's first against Ireland for three years.

Laidlaw's conversion cut the Irish lead to seven points but Sexton banged over penalties either side of half time to leave Schmidt's side 23-10 up after 45 minutes.

- dose of jitters -

Five minutes later they had their third try, Payne taking a switch ball pass from Sexton to claim his first try for his adopted country.

Sexton's conversion made in 30-10 but then the Racing Metro outside-half suffered a dose of the jitters, pushing one penalty against a post and another wide -- the latter after Geoff Cross had been yellow carded for persistent infringing.

At the third time of asking, though, Sexton succeeded, a 62nd minute penalty success putting Ireland into the box seat in the title race with a 23 point lead, 33-10.

Ten minutes later O'Brien barged over for his second try and replacement fly-half Ian Madigan converted.

That gave Ireland significant breathing space and they managed to maintain their cushion, Hogg knocking on before crossing their try line with four minutes remaining.

Str/bc

Read more on:    ireland  |  scotland  |  six nations  |  paul o'connell  |  rugby
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