Ireland hang on against battling Scots
February 27, 2011
Ireland's No.8 Jamie Heaslip dots down for his side's first try at Murrayfield
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Ireland kept their Six Nations title hopes alive with a narrow 21-18 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Tries from No.8 Jamie Heaslip, scrum-half Eoin Reddan and fly-half Ronan O'Gara powered Ireland to their second win of the Championship and left them in the running for a Triple Crown, but they had to withstand a second half comeback from Scotland with fullback Chris Paterson and replacement fly-half Dan Parks capitalising on the visitors' indiscipline to bring the hosts close to an unlikely victory.
Scotland exerted the early pressure but Ruaridh Jackson, introduced for his first Test start at fly-half, was short and wide with a penalty attempt after Ireland's Paul O'Connell had been caught offside. The sun, and O'Gara's boot, then had Paterson in trouble in his own 22 and he was forced to bundle the ball into touch.
A powerful drive from the resulting lineout then took Ireland close with flanker David Wallace and prop Cian Healy driving to within inches. The ball was recycled to hooker Rory Best who fed Heaslip for a simple score, converted by O'Gara.
Scotland enjoyed some success with ball in hand and some well-timed aggression drew a penalty against Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy that Paterson slotted to put the hosts on the board. The score appeared to spur the Scots on with centre Sean Lamont and scrum-half Mike Blair injecting some pace into proceedings, Ireland once again forced to infringe in their attempts to snuff out the danger.
Referee Nigel Owens issued a warning to Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll as Paterson reduced the arrears to one point with his second successful kick but Scotland were not immune to the referee's whistle, with prop Moray Low penalised for interference at the breakdown. O'Gara failed to punish him further from the kicking tee.
The fly-half had better luck kicking from hand and his boot set up a crucial lineout deep inside the Scotland 22 where the hosts failed to secure the ball, forcing Blair to concede a five-metre scrum. The Irish pack turned the screw with Heaslip fending off a couple of defenders before slipping the ball to Reddan, who skipped over for his side's second try - again converted by O'Gara.
Ireland's errors continued to give the Scots a foothold in the game with Best's failure to release the player after a tackle allowing Paterson to land his third penalty. Scotland loose-head Alan Jacobsen was the next to feel the wrath of the referee however, having been caught on the wrong side, but O'Gara was some way short with his long range effort. There was still time for Ireland to carve one more opening before the break with winger Tommy Bowe and Fitzgerald combining to put Keith Earls away but Lamont pounced with an excellent cover tackle.
The scrum continued to blight the game following the restart and Owens soon lost patience with Jacobsen and yellow carded the Edinburgh prop as a result. Reddan and Sean O'Brien almost capitalised immediately only to be called back for a forward pass. At the next scrum Healy was singled out by Owens as the sorry saga dragged on.
A rare touch for Scotland wing Max Evans forced Earls into some desperate defence but his pace and confidence got his side out of trouble and their own 22. O'Brien displayed an equally impressive turn of speed moments later to drive into the Scots' 22 and although denied he was soon knocking on the door again with another rampaging run.
The numbers finally paid dividends with O'Gara fending off Scotland hooker Ross Ford and stepping round Paterson on his way to touching down under the posts to make the conversion a formality. Jacobsen returned to the fray as Parks replaced Jackson and the fly-half was involved in the move that drew the next penalty, against Heaslip, with Paterson duly slotting the kick to bring his side to within nine points.
Scotland dug deep with Parks and Low linking up nicely in midfield to put centre Nick de Luca away but the Irish defence held firm. The visitor's defensive efforts crossed the line again however with Parks landing a long-range penalty with the help of a post.
O'Gara made way for Jonathan Sexton soon after but the change did little to halt the Scots' momentum. A neat linebreak from Evans eventually ended with a Parks drop goal to bring his side to within three with ten minutes remaining.
Forced to play in the hope of denying their rivals the ball, Ireland struggled to find the composure that had put them in control of the contest. In contrast, Scotland began to play with confidence and peppered the Irish 22 in search of a match-winning score. But their lineout creaked at the crucial time allowing Ireland to clear the danger and hang on for the win.
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