Tuesday 24 October 2017

Ireland's wake-up call

Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland's tenancy at Croke Park ended with a certain symmetry yesterday, with a defeat that cost them silverware.

In 2007, they lost first up to France in a campaign that otherwise was unblemished, and yesterday the Scots saw to it that the Triple Crown would go nowhere this season.

Despite arriving in Dublin without a win in this season's championship, Scotland were hugely determined to take something from their efforts, and did so by decimating Ireland's setpiece.

"I think people had this perception that Scotland were going to roll over but we knew they wouldn't," Declan Kidney said afterwards.

"Their line-out has been better than ours all season. They put pressure on us there and there were probably four or five turnovers there. One or two crucial decisions went their way there and that can be the difference in a game. We said all along that any team in this competition can beat another one and we are bitterly disappointed to lose our last game here in Croke Park. What can you do but learn from it?"

Kidney turned to the familiar figure of Ronan O'Gara after Jonny Sexton came away with 50 per cent stats on his goal kicks. O'Gara nailed two big kicks to keep Ireland in the game but man of the match Dan Parks won it for the Scots with a penalty in the dying minutes.

"Ronan didn't do anything that I would be surprised with," Kidney said. "We are trying to develop a squad and I think Jonathan has had a good campaign and Ronan has been excellent too. I always said we are blessed to have the two of them."

While Ireland's problems at the set yesterday were acute, they suffered as well at the breakdown because of their struggle to adapt to the new emphasis in the tackle law. This controversy is set to run a bit yet.

As was widely expected, France completed the Grand Slam, with a 12-10 win over England in Paris last night, leaving Ireland alone in second place with three wins from five.

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