This test match has been highlighted in both Ireland and Scottish Rugby team camps since the draw was made; an early opportunity to take control of Pool A. One team came to dominate while the other wilted in the Yokohama humidity. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the Ireland 27-3 triumph.
If you want to summarize this game, it is two words. Pack Platform. If you had read my blog preview of this tournament, my concern for a talented Scottish side was that their pack would be exposed in pack platform and set piece and these weak points came to haunt them today.
The Ireland pack relished the damp conditions and with some loose defensive structure around the fringes of the ruck, Ireland got a foothold that they never relinquished. Henderson’s line break the prelude for James Ryan to crash over early.
The second try was not long in coming. The pack platform again to the fore. Line out causing Scotland massive issues in maul defense. Great effort from Best and O’Mahony (with the assist) to crash over. Scotland were shell shocked, rattled.
The third try was more pack platform domination. The forward pack of Ireland taking control. It may not be pretty to watch but it is bloody relentless viewing. Scotland surrendering meter after meter and were unable to hold back the drive of Furlong from close range. Game over.
If the Joe Schmidt era could be encapsulated, this ruthlessly efficient Ireland pack platform display on set piece was a good tribute. Scotland had zero answers.
19-0. Scotland were on the complete back foot. The slow ruck ball for Laidlaw and Russell providing zero line break opportunity. The Scottish back row were tackling as hard as they could but the breakdown contest was all Ireland. The sight of Scotland’s pack after thirty minutes gulping for air, looking despondently at each other was the picture of the contest.
The opening period was a nightmare show. The tactic to kick down the throats of the Ireland back three backfired as Larmour and Conway in particular had strong starts. Stockdale then provided some key cameos. With a pack going backwards, this will be a tough watch for Scotland in video review tomorrow.
Ireland bounce for the bonus point try
Three tries on the board. Several near misses for a fourth try in that opening period, Ireland soaked up early Scottish pressure upon the resumption.
Ireland with the elements closing in played clever and the aerial bomb to Ryan Wilson delivered the perfect result; spilled ball and quick recycling from Ireland saw Andrew Conway with ball in hand and the Munster Rugby back crashed over who had plenty to do but executed with such precision.
The bonus point try secured. A key score. Ireland firmly putting their stamp on the pool. Game over.
Scottish huff and puff but fail to blow the Ireland house down
After the Conway try, it was a perfect opportunity to empty the bench. Key minutes for squad personnel like Kilcoyne, Porter, Beirne, Carty and McGrath.
Jack Carty provided assured game management at ten. Some deft kicks to touch and to create open play were to the fore. Carty also made some impressive tackles.
Scotland will be massively worried on this performance. They were provided a golden opportunity to get some respectability on the board on the Beirne sin bin but they were ponderous, indecisive on their line running and the handling which was much vaunted during the week was nowhere to the quality required.
Ireland comfortably were able to stifle the Scottish ball carrier and wait for their opportunity to pounce on loose ball or breakdown miscommunication. There was no remote prospect of a Scotland try today.
Ireland move forward
Opening fixture in the pool. Ireland will be the first to acknowledge that there is plenty of scope to improve; open play clear out work will need to improve as points were left behind today.
The kicking off the tee situation will be an interesting point in the coming weeks. Sexton’s goal kicking duties fell to Conor Murray with mixed results in the opening period. Sexton’s fitness and game management remain a source of concern.
Hugely positive performance aside. The pack were up for the test match upon the opening exchanges. The set piece was dominated by Ireland. Best delivered an assured performance as captain and the scrum for Scotland started to creek badly in the second and third quarters.
The injury report for Ireland after this game hopefully is not too negative. Aki and O’Mahony both went off early. Sexton monitoring continues. The good news is that Carbery, Earls, Kearney should be ready for next weekend.
Man of the match:
Few could argue with the CJ Stander nomination. The Castleconnell resident was standout, his industrious work around the breakdown and fringes excellent and his ball carrying provided excellent go forward ball.
There were numerous other nominations personally. Ireland front five impact on the game was decisive. Chris Farrell and Garry Ringrose in the three quarters provided threat with ball in hand and defensive shape when required.
The back three concerns were easily allayed. Larmour, Conway and Stockdale were not completely perfect in their defensive side but their threat with ball in hand is there for all to see.
The half back partnership of Murray and Sexton in that opening period was what was required. Fast ruck ball, superb box kicking. Sexton changing the point of attack at different intervals. Scotland’s defensive line speed was inconsistent due to this.
Ireland face Japan next weekend. On the back of this performance, confidence will be high for another quality performance. The pack looks in ominous mood and Japanese’s pack fragility was highlighted against Russia.
Scotland face a big regroup effort. Their body language both on the pitch and in the coaching stands was way off. Townsend has a massive job to restore morale. Dejected players in Barclay is not a good look ahead. Samoa and Japan will now be chomping at the bit to play Scotland.
Scotland have opened the door in Pool A for others to exploit. Their attacking play was one dimensional. Hogg was given little chance to impress from deep. Laidlaw over Price? Russell looking for the Harlem Globetrotter pass when an effective kick for territory would be the answer.
Ireland’s performance was an early standout opening round performance but tougher tests await. Today is a massive positive for the side and momentum is being built at a rate of knots.