Sunday 18 February 2018

Scotland expose Ireland's lack of bite


Scotland 'A' staged a second-half fightback at Galashiels last night to secure an eventually comfortable win over an Irish Wolfhounds side who faded badly after dominating the first 40 minutes.

Perhaps it was the substitutions, notably the replacements of Tony Buckley and Tomas O'Leary -- who had been key to the Wolfhounds' first-half ascendancy -- or perhaps it was that the Scotland forwards took 40 minutes to shake off their sluggishness.

It had all looked promising for the Wolfhounds as their dynamic start looked set to produce an early score but instead, after a promising move broke down, it was Scotland who came away with the ball, working their way upfield before gaining first points with a 45-metre penalty from out-half David Blair.

Wolfhounds' response was emphatic. From a line-out, Johne Murphy came off his blind-side wing on the inside channel before feeding Willie Faloon. The Ulster open-side was tracked down by Hefin O'Hare but when the ball was recycled, Faloon was quickly back on his feet to take the scoring pass for a try under the posts that left Ian Humphreys with an easy conversion.

A penalty apiece by Blair and Humphreys kept Wolfhounds' lead at four points but when the Ulster out-half had a second penalty attempt the ball drifted wide. With Humphreys' next effort, there was no mistake, giving the visitors a 13-6 lead.


Wolfhounds were looking by far the slicker side with ball in hand. But, against the run of play, it was the Scots which claimed the next points with a third penalty from Blair after the visitors were ruled offside at the ruck.

The Wolfhounds went to the interval with a four-point advantage.

Scotland, having looked less than efficient behind the scrum, changed their game at the beginning of the second half, using their forwards to gain the hard yards.

Then, when Greig Laidlaw released Jim Thompson, the Scotland full-back was felled by a high tackle from replacement prop Jamie Hagan. But this time Blair missed with his penalty.

The Scots were beginning to play with more conviction and when they pirated ball from a line-out, their attack resulted in a kickable penalty.

Blair, however, opted for the kick to the corner, allowing the Scotland forwards to power-drive to the line from the resultant line-out, ending with replacement prop Moray Low being bundled over for his side's first try, converted by Blair.

A further series of drives by the pack brought the Scots to within five metres of the Wolfhounds' line. Scott MacLeod was thwarted in his attempts to ground the ball but the referee had ruled the Wolfhounds offside, giving Blair an easy kick at goal for a 19-13 home lead.

Scotland extended their lead when skipper Greig Laidlaw landed a long-range penalty. The visitors tried desperately to hit back with a break from by replacement Isaac Boss but the Scots' defence had gained in confidence.

In the 79th minute, Scotland delivered the final blow as lock Fraser McKenzie broke clear before sending Hefin O'Hare racing in for the try, Blair adding the final points of the game.

Scotland A -- J Thompson; H O'Hare, B Cairns, J Houston, L Jones; D Blair, G Laidlaw (capt); J Welsh (M Low 22), D Hall (F Thomson 67), G Cross, S MacLeod, F McKenzie, R Wilson (R Harley 47), A MacDonald (R Grant 72), J Beattie.

Ireland Wolfhounds -- G Duffy; J Murphy, E O'Malley, N Spence (I Whitten 40), D Hurley; I Humphreys (N O'Connor 67), T O'Leary (I Boss 63); B Wilkinson, D Varley (N Brady 57), T Buckley (J Hagan 40), I Nagle (A Brown 57), D Toner, K McLaughlin (D Ryan 62), W Faloon, C Henry (capt).

Ref -- G Garner (Eng)

Irish Independent

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