Thinking back on Scotland’s loss to Ireland has been hard. Out of respect for the players I will analyse the goings-on at Scotstoun and Murrayfield in a separate piece because that is something that had no effect on Saturday’s result. What I will say, though, is that Scotland lost because they were bested by their opponents.
Many people say that Scotland has a negative press and that we must seek positives. With this game you cannot gloss over the fact that Scotland were second best in a lot of major facets. It is hard to put spin on it.
The scrum once again disintegrated. The lineout, so dominant before, was picked off when Scotland were chasing the game. The discipline was poor. It was made easy for Ireland’s defence by passing in front of them, moving towards the touchline. Scotland never seemed to cope with Ireland’s instant box-kick from every kick-off reception.
David Denton played fairly well and Richie Gray carried brilliantly but Scotland seemed to wander around this game. When they were direct they worked forward well, however, the lapses in concentration ensured that Scotland could never win it. Negative? This is the truth and it must be faced up to that this team face a watershed in Rome.
Gone was the dynamism in the runs. Some were willing, but Ireland were not wearied like many had hoped. There was a lapse from Sean Lamont – who was playing with far too much fire in his head, for some reason – when he attempted to obliterate Reddan at the base of a ruck and the Leinster 9 slipped under his charge and scampered in for a score. It was the very definition of a soft score.
At the end of the first half, when Scotland had roared back following a moment of individual brilliance from Gray, there was another lapse as a mark was called in the away side’s 22. Jones passed it to Hogg. He ran at full tilt, perhaps conscious that he had been outplayed by Kearney, and the fire was once again stoked up in players’ heads. Instead of playing sensible rugby the ball found Andrew Trimble who surged in at the corner.
I am trying to find positives, really I am, but the problem is that errors were made and Ireland were gifted opportunities.
As for the Earls ‘dive’, I will assume that the passions of being a fan are clouding peoples’ judgement. Evans did make some contact with him and in real time it looked for all the world like the Scot had given up running for the ball and just cut in behind the Irishman. No matter how minimal the contact was it was made and if Earls did not go down –theatrically, of course –he would still have looked like his run was that much harder. It would still have been obstructed by an Evans making for the touchline and behind Earls. Earls was never going to score but his chance was tugged away from him, ever so slightly. How can you give a penalty without a yellow card?
Of course this talk also takes a lot away from Ireland. Much of it was not that Scotland were so bad, but that Ireland were much better than many expected them to be. That is where the shock came in. Scottish fans, for some inexplicable reason, expected Ireland to be weak. They were not and Ferris, Kearney, Ryan and O’Mahony all played very well.
The over-analysed ‘Choke Tackle’ was not so much of an issue as Ireland bossing the breakdown. Evans got a yellow card, yes, and it seems like Irish players could have gotten one earlier, but where Ireland’s offenses at the ruck were streetwise and out of the referee’s gaze, a few of Scotland’s were not.
Scotland were unlucky. They were unlucky because Ireland made them unlucky.
In The Hollow Reality after the France result I said, “If injuries ravage Ireland then maybe Scotland can turn them over a week on Saturday, but now he will be looking at Italy and the summer tour.” That is still the case and this game needs to be completely forgotten. It was a heavy loss and will only demoralize if it is dwelt upon.
The progress from the France game did not continue. Hopefully against Italy it will restart. There are talented youngsters there, but Ireland outplayed them.