Ireland open campaign with Scottish victory
Ireland 28 Scotland 6
Ireland's first Six Nations Championship under Joe Schmidt got off to a successful start before a full house at Lansdowne Road this afternoon.
In a game where they were 12 points favourites on the bookies' handicap, defeat was always unlikely. They were good without being close to exceptional. Scotland on the other hand had plenty of ball, but for Scotland it was their eighth straight season to open the Championship with a loss.
They are at home to England next weekend knowing that defeat will earmark them for their traditional place in the bottom two.
Ireland were handicapped before the start with the loss of Paul O'Connell this morning. The captain woke in the early hours, struggling with a chest infection, and was ruled out. Ulster's Dan Tuohy stepped up off the bench - and did well - and the captaincy shifted to Jamie Heaslip.
In conditions borrowed from autumn, a typically quiet Sunday afternoon crowd were given a game of three tries - all from Ireland - and plenty of movement but not enough of either to raise the game to any special level. For the first half hour the Scots were dominant without making it pay - on the scoreborad they trailed 6-3 with Johnny Sexton kicking two penalties to one from Greig Laidlaw, who saw his first effort come back off the post after just five minutes. They could have done with that.
The game was in time added on in the first half when eventually Ireland made the breakthrough. From a pressured situation just 30 metres from his own sticks, Johnny Sexton made a glorious break off ruck ball, stepping inside two tackles and making it as far as the Scotland 22 before throwing a fabulous pass to man of the match Jamie Heaslip out wide. Replacement Max Evans - who had come on for Sean Mailtland who suffered a hideous looking leg injury - did well to put the Ireland captain into touch at the corner, but Ireland maintained the pressure after the lineout before working the ball wide to Andrew Trimble for his 13th Test try.
Sexton missed the conversion - he tends to struggle with mid range kicks off his right hand side - so Ireland went in at the break leading 11-3. Laidlaw pulled back three points for Scotland early in the new half but they traded well below the margin thereafter, struggling to keep Peter O'Mahony off ball at the tackle area.
Ireland's set-piece was stronger too, and it allowed Heaslip over easily off the back of a maul on 47 minutes - with Sexton's conversion the score went out to 18-6. The outhalf added another penalty before Rob Kearney got their third try on 71 minutes. Wales are up next at the same venue on Saturday.
Ireland: R Kearney; A Trimble, B O'Driscoll (F McFadden 73), L Marshall, D Kearney; J Sexton (P Jackson 73), C Murray (I Boss 73); C Healy (J McGrath 64), R Best (S Cronin 66), M Ross (M Moore 63), D Toner (I Henderson 74), D Tuohy, P O'Mahony (T O'Donnell 66), J Heaslip (capt), C Henry
Scotland: S Hogg; S Maitland (M Evans 33), A Dunbar, D Taylor (M Scott 65), S Lamont; D Weir, G Laidlaw (C Cusiter 74); R Grant (A Dickinson 53), R Ford, M Low (G Cross 66), T Swinson, J Hamilton (R Gray 57), R Wilson, D Denton, K Brown (capt) (J Beattie 57)
Referee: C Joubert (SA)
Scorers: Ireland (J Heaslip, A Trimble, R Kearney try each; J Sexton 3 pens, 2 cons) Scotland 6 (G Laidlaw 2 pens)