Scotland ill-discipline lets Ireland escape
Skipper Hogg apologises for error at tryline
Dublin: A rampant Scotland’s awful discipline when they had the tryline in reach allowed Ireland to escape with a 19-12 victory in their absorbing Six Nations rugby opener on Saturday at Lansdowne Road.
Scotland made all the running, but their constant incursions into the Irish 22 produced nothing but frustration and heartbreak.
Turnovers and penalties thwarted the adventurous Scots every time. Their best try chance came while trailing 13-6 in the third quarter. New captain Stuart Hogg, given an overlap in the left corner, only had to place the ball but inexplicably spilt it while he was trying.
Hogg apologised to his teammates.
“It was a schoolboy error,” he said. “I apologised to the boys and I need to move on. We got ourselves into some good positions after the forwards’ hard work and effort and I’m bitterly disappointed.”
But coach Gregor Townsend was willing to forgive and ask Hogg to forget.
“It’s not like him,” Townsend said. “We had a number of other occasions close to the try line, whether it was the ball-carrier presenting the ball better, 50-50 decisions from the referee that didn’t go our way, or ourselves not getting speed to contact. They were as important as that incident.
“Stuart should flush that and move on because he was outstanding today, and has been a very good leader the last two weeks.”
Meanwhile, new Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton, playing his first match in eight weeks after tearing right knee ligaments, contributed all of his team’s points with the game’s only try and landed five out of six goalkicks. When his fourth penalty extended Ireland’s lead to 19-12 with nine minutes to go, Sexton deserved to be rested.
But Scotland were far from done.
Replacement hooker Stuart McInally steamed into a gap, and flanker Hamish Watson had the Irish scrambling back with three minutes to go. Willem Nel, Cornell du Preez and Scott Cummings tried to pound the ball in from rucks but the Irish defence was magnificent. Almost inevitably, Scotland conceded a penalty on the line and the Irish were slapping the back of CJ Stander. Up in the coaches box, new Ireland boss Andy Farrell and his assistants were fist-pumping and high-fiving.
But the Scots still weren’t finished. They had a tap kick on the Irish 22 with two minutes to go, tried pick-and-goes, the clock passed 80 minutes, and a Scot was stripped of the ball by Josh van der Flier.
And Ireland could finally breathe easy.
“|It’s a start,” Farrell said. “We asked the players all week to make sure they stand for something and, boy, did they stand for a bit of grit.”