Ireland overcame a strong start by Scotland to run out winners by 31 – 16 in the Autumn Nations Cup 3rd Place Playoff at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Ireland (11) 31
TRY: Keith Earls (2), Cian Healy
CON: Jonny Sexton (2)
PEN: Jonny Sexton (2), Ross Byrne (2)
Scotland (9) 16
TRY: Duhan van der Merwe
CON: Jaco van der Walt
PEN: Jaco van der Walt (3)
Scotland started the game brightly and ran rings round Ireland for the first 30 minutes. However, they failed to to covert their flair into points with three penalties, from Jaco van der Walt, against one from Jonny Sexton, all they had to show for their efforts.
The visitors lost the plot on the half hour mark when Duncan Taylor was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on. Whatever the reasoning behind the decision, it really seemed to get Scotland worked up and they switched from a team brimming with confidence to a team more intent on arguing than playing.
Ireland took immediate advantage as Sexton knocked over the resultant penalty and 6 minutes later they took the lead after a cross field kick by Sexton was knocked down in the in goal area as Robbie Henshaw and Darcy Graham contested the high ball. Keith Earls was the quickest to react and pounced on the ball to claim his 31st International try.
Scotland’s first half hour had been for nothing as Ireland took an 11 – 9 lead into the break.
The game, very much on the edge, had the potential to open up into an exciting second half but two quick tries by Ireland’s veterans soon put paid to that. Cian Healy crossed four minutes after the restart, after a series of forward drives, and five minutes later Earls slid over for his second, after another series of forward drives had created space out wide. Sexton converted both to take the score to 25 – 9, game over.
Ulster and Banbridge’s Eric O’Sullivan made his debut in the match against Scotland, replacing Cian Healy at loose head prop on the 65th minute.
Photo credit. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Scotland’s Duran van der Merwe injected a touch of excitement with a fine individual effort, converted by van der Walt, to push the score to 25 – 16 but, in a rather forgettable final quarter, replacement Ross Byrne slotted over two penalties for Ireland to seal the game.
Final score: Ireland 31 Scotland 16.
Ireland: Jacob Stockdale, Hugo Keenan, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Andrew Porter, Iain Henderson, James Ryan, CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris. Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Eric O’Sullivan, John Ryan, Quinn Roux, Josh van der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Chris Farrell.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Duncan Taylor, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Ali Price, Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Blade Thomson, Jamie Ritchie, Matt Fagerson. Replacements: Stuart McInally, Oli Kebble, Willem Nel, Sam Skinner, Blair Cowan, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Huw Jones, Sean Maitland.
It’s a real pity that Scotland self imploded in this one as it could have been a good test for Ireland and it had the potential to really open up in the second half if the Scots had recaptured their early confidence.
If you were a Scot you could argue; that it was a harsh yellow card, that Earls first try was knocked on by Henshaw onto the hand of Graham, there was a hand underneath Healy’s grounding. None of the decisions were clear cut, but it was still a poor response from a team that had dominated until they took the hump.
As it was, Ireland had to do very little creative in the first half and barely had to look beyond their standard abrasive game in the second.