Scotland’s Six Nations campaign got off to a disappointing start as they were brushed aside by Ireland in Dublin.
Joe Schmidt’s side ran in tries either side of the interval to all-but take the game away from Scott Johnson’s side, who had produced a spirited opening 40 minutes. However, losing wing Sean Maitland to injury on the half-hour seemed to affect the visitors, who appeared second best at the breakdown.
A pair of Greig Laidlaw penalties was all they could muster, as the Scots’ dismal opening day record continued. The match started well for the travelling Scots who enjoyed the bulk of possession early on, without challenging the Irish defence. Johnson’s side appeared to single out Brian O’Driscoll on attack, but the 35 year-old Ireland centre was more than up to the task.
Imperious at the set-piece despite the withdrawal of Paul O’Connell through illness, the home side grew in confidence as Jonny Sexton kicked them in front. Laidlaw soon levelled but Sexton added a further three-pointer before the home side went through the gears as half-time approached. Firstly Sexton carved Scotland open as he broke 50 metres up field, before feeding skipper Heaslip, who should have scored at the corner –denied a fine try only by an equally superb covering tackle from replacement Max Evans. The Irish pack almost bludgeoned their way over moments later, before the ball was fed wide to Rob Kearney to capitalise on a miss-match out wide, as he put Ulsterman Andrew Trimble over.
Half-time: Ireland 11-3 Scotland
Greig Laidlaw kicked his second penalty within moments of the resumption to put the Scots back in touch, but that was ultimately to be as good as it got for the visitors. Ireland scored their second try on 46 minutes, as a penalty kicked to touch was rumbled over with an ease akin to that the Bok pack showed at Murrayfield in November.
It was becoming hard to watch, even for coach Scott Johnson who hauled off captain Kelly Brown and the disappointing Ross Ford, as his side looked for a way back into the match.
Alas, it never came and Rob Kearney’s try summed the afternoon up. He used great footwork to beat the Scottish defenders, before showing impressive strength to score his ninth Test try. Things nearly got worse late on, as Dave Kearney thought he had capped a great family performance with a try – only to be denied by the TMO.
All in all, a disappointing start for Johnson and his troops, who will re-group for the visit of England to Murrayfield on Saturday.