Stuart Hogg’s brilliant try double and a remarkable last ten minutes after they seemed to be spent lifted Scotland to victory over highly-favoured Ireland at BT Murrayfield.
21-8 ahead scoring three tries in a scintillating first half performance which threatened to totally overwhelm Ireland, the Scots then fell out of the game in the face of a second half Irish onslaught and were trailing with just eight minutes left.
But they dug into their reserves of energy and two penalties from the ever-reliable captain Greig Laidlaw turned the tide back in their favour. The 27-22 win is only the second opening weekend the Scots have enjoyed since the Six Nations started in 2000.
The Scots could have had more than the three first half tries, the first two from the brilliant Hogg who Ireland simply could not cope with when he got up to pace. A “trick play” at a lineout provided the third score for Alex Dunbar.
But Ireland’s pack nearly turned the game back in their favour with tries from Keith Earls, Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson giving them the lead, only for the Scots to tough out the win.
Initial problems at the scrum, with three penalties conceded on Ireland first three put-ins, were shrugged off with on Scotland’s first attack.
They twice found space out wide with Jones and Hogg at pace, and after Hamish Watson drove close, Russell’s loose and long pass just evaded Garry Ringrose for Hogg to spin out of the tackle and go over.
Laidlaw converted, and crucially the Scots survived two penalties and two lineout drives from Ireland without damage to double their advantage in 21 minutes.
They won an attacking lineout after catching Simon Zebo holding on, and moved it wide at pace for Hogg to evade Earls and dummy his way past Rob Kearney for his and Scotland’s second try.
Ireland responded with an unconverted try, but it nearly went to the other end with Tommy Seymour just unable to hold on to an interception before Earls went over in the corner.
But Ireland messed up the restart and Russell’s grubber forced Zebo to concede a five metre lineout, from where the Scots dug into their bag of tricks.
They lined up Laidlaw, Seymour, Alex Dunbar as the first three in the lineout and Ford threw a flat one straight to Dunbar who shrugged off a tackle to score easily.
Laidlaw added the conversion and although Paddy Jackson responded with a penalty, it was the Scots who looked closer to scoring with last ditch tackles stopping Hogg and Seymour late in the half.
But Ireland took complete command of the next half hour after the break, erasing Scotland’s lead with some bludgeoning forward play played at murderous pace.
First Iain Henderson squeezed over as the Irish ran a series of power charges inside the Scottish 22, Jackson converting, and Ireland really should have scored another straight away.
Conor Murray charged down Russell’s grubber kick and regathered, but didn’t spot Zebo unmarked on his left, and when he did link Jamie Heaslip’s off-load went into Sean Maitland’s grateful arms.
The wing then made a last gasp tackle on Rob Kearney to save another try, but it was only delayed briefly as Scotland’s exit was hurried and Jackson dodged a Dunbar tackle near the post to stretch over, converting himself, leaving Ireland suddenly 21-22 in front.
The Scots looked heavy-legged and hanging on, but they raised themselves with John Barclay a key presence, winning a penalty in midfield and then another in the 22 which allowed Laidlaw to restore the lead.
That allowed the Scots to camp inside the Irish half for the final few minutes, and Ireland’s frustrations led to another penalty which Laidlaw stroked effortlessly between the posts to secure Scotland’s priceless victory.
Scotland: S Hogg; S Maitland, H Jones, A Dunbar, T Seymour; F Russell, G Laidlaw (capt); A Dell, F Brown, Z Fagerson; J Gray, R Gray; R Wilson, H Watson, J Strauss.
Replacements: R Ford for Brown 31, G Reid for Dell 56, T Swinson for Strauss 66, J Barclay for Watson 49, M Bennett for Jones 60.
Ireland: R Kearney; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, S Zebo; P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), T Furlong; I Henderson, D Toner; CJ Stander, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
Replacements: C Healy for McGrath 56, J Ryan for Furlong 68, U Dillane for Henderson 62, J van der Flier for O’Brien 66, T Bowe for Earls 68
Ref: R Poite (FFR)