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Scotland 7 Ireland 22: Scots’ Triple Crown hopes submerged by green tidal wave at Murrayfield

Man of the match Mack Hansen is tackled by Scotland's Hamish Watson.
Man of the match Mack Hansen is tackled by Scotland's Hamish Watson.

Scotland’s bid for a first Triple Crown in 33 years was drowned in an unstoppable green wave at BT Murrayfield as Ireland stayed right on course for a Grand Slam.

The Scots barely fired a shot and didn’t score a single point in the second half. This despite Ireland being forced into emergency measures with both hookers out injured for the final half hour.

By then, however, the Irish had a clear upper hand after an even first half saw them just a point ahead.

Scotland’s optimism crushed again

The main Irish hero was wing Mack Hansen, who scored a try with a pinpoint finish, won the ball for the crucial second score and the final pass for the third.

But once the Irish had a stranglehold on the game, the entire second half blew a hole in Scotland’s optimism after so much improved form in the first three games of the championship.

The Scots had a couple of missed scoring chances just before half-time that might have made the second half a different story.

Neither Finn Russell not Stuart Hogg could inject any momentum and the full-back, winning his 100th cap, was withdrawn with 20 minutes still to play.

For Ireland, their strength in depth – even without a specialist hooker – was all too evident. Their tried and tested setpiece drills survived the injuries without incident. Replacements Jamison Gibson-Park and Jack Conan were instrumental in their dominant second half.

For Scotland, the Irish obstacle remains as insurmountable as ever. The second half was a familiar and sobering affair. The Scots didn’t have a meaningful possession inside the Irish 22 in the second 40 minutes.

Hansen’s brilliant finish has Ireland in front

A dead even first-half had both sides suffering early injury woes and a try apiece.

Scotland suffered maybe the biggest blow after just five minutes when key lineout man Richie Gray was forced off holding his shoulder. The Scots immediately wobbled visibly in his absence.

They were maybe fortunate to escape a careless quick throw close to their own line when ref Luke Pearce ruled the lineout hadn’t formed. But as the half progressed the setpiece settled down.

Ireland lost key man Caelan Doris after 13 minutes and hooker Dan Sheehan after 19, and the Scots did well to defend inside five metres after Sexton’s deft grubber kick drove them back.

The veteran stand-off kicked Ireland in front with a penalty, but Scotland bounced right back.

Hogg was driven into touch after a 16-phase move inside the Irish 22. But the Scots came right back with a Russell half-break, White going close before Tuipulotu’s short pass put Jones in for his fourth try of the championship to the right of the posts.

Russell converted and Scotland immediately won possession back with a counter-ruck that was proving highly effective at the breakdown.

But Ireland regained the lead just before the half hour, attacking from a scrum with purpose and a slick move involving two dummy runners allowing Keenan to spin a wide pass to Hansen.

The wing just got the ball down in the corner ahead of van der Merwe’s hit and the try was confirmed after a TMO check.

Ireland lose second hooker

Scotland should have hit back immediately again when Russell took a floated pass and released van der Merwe in the 22. But for once the wing seemed to hesitate with the line close, and Ireland won it on the deck.

Both sides missed good chances just before the break, a rare poor lineout throw from Ireland allowing Scotland to raise a siege on the own line.

Then the Scots weren’t quite slick enough on attacking ball in the Irish 22 and Turner was driven into touch going for the corner.

The teams looked tense and a little tentative early in the second half but Ireland suffered another injury blow when replacement hooker Ronan Kellher was forced off. Van der Flier was the lineout thrower and Cian Healy went to hooker.

But they still won their lineout ball and a scrum penalty, and from the resultant lineout pieced together a second try.

Replacements play a key role

Replacement 9 Jamison Gibson-Park’s perfectly judged box kick saw Hansen rise to win the ball in the 22. While the Scots defended their line stoutly, they ran out of men wide left where Lowe got in for the try.

Sexton converted and Ireland were out to 15-7 with just over a quarter of the game left.

And the Irish had the winds in their sails now, Lowe’s clever grubber up the line pinning Scotland back. Scotland’s defence was pierced out wide as van der Merwe went inside and replacement Jack Conan had an easy score on the outside.

Sexton converted again and despite their various injury woes, Ireland were away and clear.

They lost another man as Ringrose took a heavy head knock, but the final minutes were almost an irrelevance with a demoralised Scotland unable to make any inroads.

Att 67,144


Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs); Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors), Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ben White (London Irish); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors); Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs), Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors); Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors for Turner 59), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors for Schoeman 54), Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors for Z Fagerson 54), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors for Gray 5), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh for M Fagerson 67), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors for White 59), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh for Hogg 65), Chris Harris (Gloucester for Russell 80).

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Gary Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher (for Sheehan 19), Cian Healy (for Kelleher 49), Tom O’Toole (for Furlong 65), Ryan Baird (for Henderson 25), Jack Conan (for Doris 13), Jamison Gibson-Park (for Murray 54), Ross Byrne (for Sexton 70), Robbie Henshaw (for Aki 67).

Ref: Luke Pearce (RFU)