Wednesday 21 February 2018

Yawning Irish gaps help Scots expose game-plan

Ireland player Rob Kearney Photo: PA
Ireland player Rob Kearney Photo: PA
David Kelly

David Kelly

Ireland's defeat was a stunning upset but its genesis was utterly logical.

Scotland profited from negating traditional Irish strengths - lineout, one-out back-row carrying and (poor) box-kicking - and re-opened seemingly historic weaknesses in a narrow defence.

"We let Finn Russell play all day long," lamented Rob Kearney. "There wasn't a speck of dirt on him."

Scotland struck gold from limited ball but vast acreage of width was gifted by passive defence.

"We scored when we had possession," noted Vern Cotter. "Except for a few broken tackles, Ireland had more ball but didn't get as much effectiveness from the attacks."

The slow start killed Ireland and the fast recovery came too late. "I suppose we were so slow in the first 20 minutes that we played for 60 today," assessed Sean O'Brien. It wasn't enough.

Stuart Hogg cemented a Lions jersey with a dazzling brace of tries. A calamitous lineout concession, after Ireland, dominant at scrum, missed an easy opportunity from their own close-in set-piece, crippled them.

"The forwards needed our brains," joked captain Greig Laidlaw.

Alex Dunbar continued: "As Jonny Gray made the call they moved and the gap opened. When I saw it, I just went for it. It all just depended on how they marked up. I'm just glad I caught it!"

Scotland started like a dream, Ireland as if enduring a nightmare. The Scots dictated the terms of engagement, in offence and defence.

"Everything we wanted, we did the opposite," bemoaned Kearney. "We were soft, we weren't winning the collisions, they were getting quick rucks and they were just toying with us for the first 20 minutes."

Irish Independent

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