Ireland claimed a record-equalling 40-10 win against Scotland at Murrayfield to put one hand on the Six Nations trophy. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Wales' 61-20 win against Italy in Rome meant Ireland had to win their final fixture by 21 points to stand a chance of defending their title. In the end they won by 33.
Ireland needed to make a good start to their final fixture and they got it when Paul O’Connell crashed over for a try. Johnny Sexton kicked the conversion and added a penalty to give his side a 10-0 lead after as many minutes.
Scotland then lost tighthead prop Euan Murray, who suffered a broken nose, before Greig Laidlaw got his side on the board with a penalty.
But Ireland took firm control of the game when Sean O’Brien broke away from a lineout on Scotland's 22, and evaded the tackle of Dougie Fife to score. The visitors looked set to cross the line again three minutes later, following another O’Brien break, but Tommy Bowe's pop pass was intercepted by a defender.
Scotland then got themselves back into the game when they regathered possession from a kick ahead. With the referee playing advantage, they attacked down the blind side and Finn Russell took advantage of the overlap to score a converted try.
But Sexton kicked penalties either side of the break to give Ireland a 13-point lead, which became 20 (the magic number) when Jared Payne scored under the posts in the 50th minute.
Sexton was then unsuccessful with two penalty attempts, the second which came after Geoff Cross had been sin-binned for a professional foul at the breakdown. But the flyhalf was on target with his next shot, to make it 33-10.
O'Brien then reached over to score his second try with nine minutes to go, before Scotland blew a try when Stuart Hogg lost possession when trying to ground the ball in the right-hand corner.
Scotland – Try: Finn Russell. Conversion: Greig Laidlaw. Penalty: Laidlaw.
Ireland – Tries: Paul O’Connell, Sean O’Brien (2), Jared Payne. Conversions: Johnny Sexton (3), Ian Madigan. Penalties: Sexton (4).
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Adam Ashe, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Tim Visser.
Ireland – 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Paul O’Connell (c), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Felix Jones.
Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images