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Natwest 6 Nations: Ireland 28 – 8 Scotland Reflections

Clinical Ireland

Test matches are decided on fine margins. With Scotland superior in the first quarter, Ireland were forced to defensively regroup but a very ambitious Peter Horne pass out wide was superbly intercepted by Jacob Stockdale and hence saw Ireland gain a foothold on proceedings. From 0-3 down, suddenly the hosts were 7-3 up and Ireland never looked back. The next time Ireland got into the Scotland red zone, a second try was scored by Stockdale in the corner. This after Scotland had squandered a glorious try opportunity themselves when Huw Jones’ pass to Stuart Hogg failed to stick. Ireland were more precise with ball in hand in the red zone. Scotland were off and several try chances went a begging. A twenty point loss is harsh on Scotland but test match rugby is sometimes extremely cruel.

Tackle Count Key

An incredible statistic after thirty-five minutes was that Scotland had a combined eight-six tackles made. One hundred tackles and you tend to see defensive gaps and so it proved. Ireland were patient with ball in hand; making Scotland work their tackle count in the opening period. The closing exchanges of the opening period and start of the second half saw the tackle count after effects in full view. Ireland making a sixty meter line break with ease. Yes, Ireland were stopped just short of the line but the resultant scrum setup Stockdale for his and Ireland’s second try. 14-3 at the break was suddenly 21-3 with Ireland again finding gaps in the Scottish defensive immediately after the restart. Ireland structured game plan working to full effect putting Scotland into the red in terms of tackle count and the bonus point try was a matter of when and not if.

Sub Impact

Scotland bench strategy was thrown into disarray as early as the first quarter with two early changes. Ireland’s sub impact was huge. Everyone contributed off the bench. Jordi Murphy was prominent in ball carrying. The prop options continued to build a platform. Marmion and Carbery introduced to close out the game. Mission accomplished. Scotland were forced into their bench far too early due to HIA incidents. Iain Henderson in his work rate and line out kept Scotland at bay. Sean Cronin crashed over for the bonus point try. Sub bench impact was massive today for Ireland particularly in the second half.

Defensive Ireland on point?

A work in progress. As mentioned, Scotland’s lack of precision with ball in hand for a couple of try scoring opportunities was duly noted. Ireland defensively in the second half were sucked too far in at times, exposed on the outside several times. Maitland’s try coming about as Ireland defensive were sucked inside. Kearney, Stockdale perhaps could have made better defensive calls but given the number of tries leaked against Italy (3) and Wales (3), progress was made today by Ireland defensively.  Bundee Aki defensively was on point throughout. A much sterner test awaits at Twickenham on the outside wing exchanges. Encouraging.

Ringrose sublime

The talk before this game was about Huw Jones but Gary Ringrose dominated the three quarters battle. His sniping line running and ability to find the soft shoulder was on point today. Ringrose provides genuine world class thirteen ability and complements Aki’s physicality and abrasive ball carrying perfectly. Ireland’s depth chart at thirteen looks great with Henshaw, Farrell filling the jersey in recent weeks. When you add Ringrose to the mix, it is a lovely problem for Schmidt to have. Ringrose personally was my man of the match, different class today.

Ireland Championship secured?

Another bonus point effort from Ireland leaves them on the brink. It is all down to England later to determine if the Twickenham fixture next weekend is a championship decider. If England win without a bonus try point, Ireland win the championship. If England win with a bonus point, the championship is still up for grabs. Ireland chasing for the Grand Slam and Championship. It is a tall order to win at Twickenham but it is a great opportunity for this management and group of players to win this tournament in style.