Thursday 18 January 2018

The game at a glance

Star turn

John Barclay (Scotland)

On a deeply disappointing day for the Irish, Keith Earls and Tommy Bowe still managed to exhibit their quality, while Cian Healy had a big afternoon, despite the scrum lottery and huge pressure from Euan Murray. Scotland had big performers throughout their team, with Barclay producing an outstanding display of understated excellence -- the best No 7 in the championship.

Magic moment

Ireland played some mesmerising rugby in the opening quarter without getting the full reward their endeavours prompted. Brian O'Driscoll scored the try during this period of dominance, but it was his pass to Earls out of the back of his hand when he had no space to work with which was the game's most skilful moment.

Ref watch

Jonathan Kaplan had a busy day, with Ireland coming out the worse for wear, particularly when it came to several undetected Scottish knock-ons. The South African appeared as confused as everyone else as to what was happening in the scrum, but policed the tackle area well -- apart from the decisive penalty award against Kearney.

Crowd watch

It was a pity that the final memory of an international rugby crowd in Croke Park will be of them booing Dan Parks as the Scotland out-half lined up and slotted home the winning penalty.

Turning point

The game was in the balance right to the end, but the drop goal that Parks stroked over ( after Kaplan had missed a Scottish knock-on) to leave the visitors 14-7 ahead at half-time was massively significant psychologically.

Talking point

When the rest of his game is so proficient, why does Jonathan Sexton kick so confidently for his province and so nervously for his country?

What's next?

Friday, June 4 -- Ireland XV v Barbarians, Thomond Park.

Hugh Farrelly

Irish Independent

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