In the end, absurd as it sounds, it didn't really matter who ended up ahead on the scoreboard.
Come the Rugby World Cup this September, teams as technically inept as these two are going to get the mother of all hammerings when they meet southern hemisphere opposition. For Ireland to have been hanging on by their fingernails for the last 10 minutes of the match was a dire indictment of their awful performance. Three tries to nil? Forget that. This was a dreadful, technically diabolical match between two teams who are going to be brutally exposed at the World Cup.
Scotland were so poor, so limited a team for an hour that Ireland ought to have disappeared over the horizon. Instead, they kept on giving away stupid, elementary penalties that represented a lifebelt to the drowning Scots. Scotland can't do much of any worth on the international field, but they can kick goals. Thus, Chris Patterson landed four penalties, Dan Parks one and Ireland were suddenly confronting defeat.
Somehow, they clung on for a meaningless win. For this was as sub-standard a match as the Italy versus Wales game 24 hours earlier, and it reveals the technical poverty of the game in the northern hemisphere -- England and France excepted.
What made this worse was that you couldn't say Ireland had not been warned. They out-scored France by three tries to one yet lost because they conceded so many penalties, France kicking six goals to win that match. It wasn't any different yesterday, except on the scoreboard.
The long list of technical errors by Ireland represented a dunce's report: too many men in the line-out, not binding at the scrum, hands in the ruck, offside, not releasing the tackled player. And so it went on.
Ireland seem quite unable to eliminate these simple errors from their game. And if they can only scrape home against Scotland after a desperate rearguard display in the final minutes, then the thought of what South Africa, New Zealand or Australia will do to them in the World Cup is grim. And before that, there is England at Lansdowne Road...
The Scots don't have a clue how to play the modern game. Ireland have, but they're so riddled with mistakes that they have no chance of any continuity or momentum -- the keys to the new game -- in their play. Just once in the entire match, shortly before half-time, Ireland put together a decent movement, of 16 phases. Typically, they ruined it by not releasing in the tackle.
It was fortunate for Ireland that the Scottish defence was in such charitable mood. Ireland's three try scorers -- Jamie Heaslip, Eoin Reddan and Ronan O'Gara -- all crossed the Scottish line without a hand being laid on them, so inept was the defence. When did that last happen? Reddan's try came when Sean Lamont just threw the ball away five yards from his own line. Scotland were terrible at the basics but managed to drag Ireland down to their level. Until the final 10 minutes, most of the ruck ball they won was of funereal pace, useless to a side with attacking intent.
Only O'Gara, who brought structure, and the ever combative David Wallace earned much praise. Forget the scoreline -- this was a woeful display by Declan Kidney's men.