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'Alarm bells ringing' as O'Driscoll accuses guilty players of letting team down

IRELAND captain Brian O'Driscoll said "alarm bells are ringing" after his side escaped from Murrayfield with a nervy 21-18 win over Scotland and said players are "letting the team down" by giving away needless penalties.

Inspired by Ronan O'Gara, Declan Kidney's side scored three tries and conceded none but a penalty count that ran into the early teens, against just four conceded by the Scots, gave Andy Robinson's side a sniff of an unlikely victory; a frustrated O'Driscoll said that situation was not acceptable.

"It's a very, very strange dressing-room, but having to fight to the death after outscoring them three tries to nil sets off a few alarm bells as to what we are doing wrong," said O'Driscoll.

"You look at that penalty count and it's really hurting us; it hurt us in the French game and it hurt us today but we are glad to come away with the win. Guys have to go and have a look. There are a certain amount of penalties you are going to give up, 50-50 decisions that the referee calls, but we are definitely giving away four or five penalties that guys that are infringing know they are guilty of, and you are letting the team down a bit by doing that.

"You have to look at making sure that, if you get the jersey to wear in the next game, you don't do that again because it is not acceptable at this level to keep Scotland in the game the way we did, and outscoring them three tries to nil is a bit painful."

Referees and penalty counts dominated both coaches' post-match observations but, while Kidney said he had "no interest" in getting into criticism of Nigel Owens, Scotland coach Andy Robinson demanded answers from the official.

Robinson had a major issue with the sin-binning of Allan Jacobsen after half-time and was adamant that Ireland should have had a sin-binning.

"There are a number of issues that I have about the game," said Robinson. "Firstly, the high Irish penalty count and no sin-bins and their ability to slow our ball down illegally. Secondly, I thought the scrums just after half-time -- when we've got the Irish going backwards and there was a penalty against us and then from the next scrum our prop (Jacobsen) was sin-binned -- was a major turning point in the game.

"We were just about to get on top of the Irish and to lose a player like that is pretty hard to come back from. I want to know why he (Owens) made those calls."

Ireland have had issues with the officiating in their first two matches against Italy and France and have followed the established process of referral to IRB referees manager Paddy O'Brien, something Kidney said they will be doing again after yesterday's difficulties.

"There needs to be an integrity kept with the referees," said Kidney. "We lost a game two weeks ago when we could have come in sledging about the referee; we didn't, we followed the process and we intend to the same thing again.

"There were penalties given against us in the last game that have since been acknowledged that at least one of those should have been turned around and on two more occasions there should have a penalty to us awarded just before there were penalties awarded against us.

"The referees have been quite happy for me to be able to say this, they are willing to hold their hands up when it's wrong. So I think it is important that we stick to what the truth is here as against perception. The facts are that the penalty count ended up today 13-4; we are not complaining, we didn't complain the last day.

"We want to get our fair crack of the whip. I've met these referees, they're good men, they give it their best opinion. We have been apologised to for getting some things wrong in the last two matches, let's see what happens after today."

If Ireland had managed the end-game score against France, they would still be in the hunt for a Grand Slam and Kidney believes the team are making progress but still have a distance to travel to get to where they want to be.

"We have been a bit stop-and-start by our own standards, but barring one or two decisions by everyone involved in the French game we could be in an extremely positive place," he said.

"We are progressing and we're building experience. We are quite a different unit to what we were two years ago because there are quite a number of changes in the squad, so I think we're progressing without shouting form the roof tops that we are there yet. We have quite a bit to do."

Irish Independent