The big news for Ireland coming into Murrayfield today is the return of Tommy Bowe from injury as well as Ronan O'Gara supplanting Jonathan Sexton as the starter in the number 10 shirt.
Scotland: 15-Chris Paterson, 14-Nikki Walker, 13-Nick De Luca, 12-Sean Lamont, 11-Max Evans, 10-Ruaridh Jackson, 9-Mike Blair, 8-Johnnie Beattie, 7-John Barclay, 6-Kelly Brown, 5-Alastair Kellock, 4-Richie Gray, 3-Moray Low, 2-Ross Ford, 1-Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16-Scott Lawson, 17-Geoff Cross, 18-Nathan Hines, 19-Richie Vernon, 20-Rory Lawson, 21-Dan Parks, 22-Simon Danielli.
Ireland: 15-Luke Fitzgerald, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12-Gordon D'Arcy, 11-Keith Earls, 10-Ronan O'Gara, 9-Eoin Reddan; 8-Jamie Heaslip, 7-David Wallace, 6-Sean O'Brien, 5-Paul O'Connell, 4-Donncha O'Callaghan, 3-Mike Ross, 2-Rory Best, 1-Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-Tom Court, 18-Leo Cullen, 19-Denis Leamy, 20-Peter Stringer, 21-Jonathan Sexton, 22-Paddy Wallace.
O'Gara's presence in the Irish side was a reflection of the likely game-plan that the team would carry into the game. Ireland were expected to look to take on the Scottish upfront as the home side were missing star forwards Euan Murray and Nathan Hines. Ireland were expected to play a slow field position game to pressure the Scottish pack on the boot of Ronan O'Gara.
Scotland dropped off.
Ireland continued their streak of stupid penalties early in the game when Luke Fitzgerald's knock on was picked up by Paul O'Connell which gave Scotland a chance to kick at goal from midfield. Six Nations debutant Ruaridh Jackson's strike at the posts did not have the necessary distance to put the first points on the board.
O'Gara and Bowe first impact on the game came from Ireland's first set piece. The team ran a set move from a scrum in the Scottish half. O'Gara chipped over fullback Chris Patterson for Bowe to chase which resulted in a lineout to Ireland 5 yards from the try line.
Ireland controlled the ball from the lineout but were stuffed initially from a maul. After David Wallace and Cian Healy were repelled from the line, Eoin Reddan fed Rory Best who popped the ball to Jamie Heaslip which allowed him to stroll in for the opening try. Scotland 0-7 Ireland.
Ireland looked to have their tails up as they looked to run at Scotland from their own half but once again gave away a penalty at midfield after Luke Fitzgerald was isolated in a ruck. Scotland kicked down the line but an errant throw at the lineout gave Ireland a chance to clear their lines.
O'Gara was striking the ball well from hand which was keeping Scotland out of the Irish half.
Scotland eventually penetrated into the Irish 22 after tough and persistent running from the whole team earned them a penalty from a difficult angle. Chris Patterson took over the kicking duties from Jackson as it was within his range and didn't disappoint. Scotland 3-7 Ireland.
From the resulting kickoff Ronan O'Gara gave away a penalty inside the Scottish 22 which Scotland took quickly and turned into a penalty inside the Irish half. Ireland continuing to give away stupid penalties, something that has haunted them throughout this competition. Patterson stepped up and systematically split the posts. Scotland 6-7 Ireland.
After twenty minutes the Irish pack were yet to impose themselves at the breakdown which was resulting in scrappy possession for the team. Ireland were lucky to win a penalty at the Scottish 10 meter line which gave Ronan O'Gara his first penalty attempt. O'Gara's kick fell short and wide allowing Sean LaMont to clear his lines.
The mistakes weren't waining as a quick lineout ultimately led to a poor pass from Reddan causing Jamie Heaslip to knock on in midfield under no pressure.
Predictably, Scotland turned a scrum into a penalty as Mike Ross was penalized for not binding.
Scotlands stint in the Irish half came to nothing when Eoin Reddan eventually broke away from the Irish 22 which gave Ronan O'Gara a chance to pin Scotland back close to their own line. Scotland took a risky lineout that didn't pay off which allowed Rory Best and Ronan O'Gara to tackle Sean LaMont behind his try line. Ireland had a scrum 5 meters with a substantial blindside.
Ireland looked to push Scotland over from the scrum which gave them a penalty advantage before Jamie Heaslip broke from the back to draw the defenders. Heaslip was held up but Eoin Reddan ripped the ball from his teammate and scampered through the defense to dive over the line. Scotland 6-14 Ireland.
It was definitely a case of one step forward and two steps back for Ireland as they almost instantly gave away another penalty through Rory Best. It was Ireland's 7th penalty in the game and gave Chris Patterson an easy opportunity with no angle to deter him. Scotland 9-14 Ireland.
Ireland's backline wasn't having any impact on the game which was a result of poor pack play and the inclusion of O'Gara. Tommy Bowe had been completely anonymous after his early play.
Ireland worked the ball through double digit phases and slowly inched their way towards the Scottish line. They were unable to fully take advantage of the half breaks that were coming their way but managed to make their way under the Scottish posts.On the 15th phase of play, just as Ireland looked like scoring, Ronan O'Gara was penalized for holding onto the ball at the breakdown. The poor support play of the Irish team was looking amateurish.
Scotland cleared their lines but once again couldn't control the lineout which allowed O'Gara to pin them in their own territory once more. Ruaridh Jackson replied with a huge kick from his own 22 into the Irish half.
Ireland took clean lineout ball and benefited from what looked like a forward pass to win a penalty at midfield. O'Gara looked uncertainly towards his captain who encouraged him to kick at goal. O'Gara had reason to be cautious as his kick tailed off to the right once again.
Ireland had one more chance to threaten the Scottish line as time ticked past 40 minutes. They moved the ball from left to right before Tommy Bowe injected some pace into the play and offloaded to Luke Fitzgerald who looked to have put Keith Earls in the clear down the left. Earls was tackled out of touch 10 meters from the line to bring a frustrating half for the Irish to an end.
Half time: Scotland 9-14 Ireland
Ireland started the second half in the same style as they had lost the ball in a ruck before a minute had ticked by. Scotland could not take advantage which resulted in another scrum at midfield.
For once, Ireland weren't the team penalized at the scrum which gave O'Gara an opportunity to kick a penalty down the line. Rory Best's throw to the front of the lineout was disrupted by Richie Gray. Scotland kicked the ball high before Tommy Bowe knocked on for another scrum at midfield. The amount of time spent scrummaging was killing the excitement of this game.
Scotland once again gave away a penalty and Referee Nigel Owens sent Allan Jacobsen to the sin bin for the infringement.
The resultant penalty was sent into the Scottish 22 and secured by David Wallace. Ireland mauled against the undermanned Scottish side successfully before Eoin Reddan sent Sean O'Brien through. However Reddan's pass was forward and pulled back for another scrum that forced Scotland into a change.
It was a significant change as Scotland withdrew back row Johnnie Beattie.
This time Ireland were penalized at the scrum as Cian Healy was singled out for not binding. Scotland cleared their lines.
Scotland had been troubling Luke Fitzgerald throughout the game with high balls. Fitzgerald finally claimed one ten minutes into the second half that allowed Brian O'Driscoll to feed Sean O Brien who showed great pace running through the middle of the field. The Leinster flanker was isolated and lost the ball which gave Scotland a short reprieve.
Scotland kicked long before Sean O Brien once again got his hands on the ball and drove his way to the try line. Once again a lack of support was the downfall of the side as Ireland gave away a penalty at the breakdown.
Ireland were making the extra man count but could not finish off the Scots.
Sean O Brien once again broke the Scottish line before an errant pass from the distinctly poor Gordon D'Arcy slowed down the move. Cian Healy recovered to carry the ball to the fringe of the try line before D'Arcy once again slowed down the move not taking advantage of an overlap. D'Arcy went to ground which allowed Ireland to recycle the ball when Ronan O'Gara burst through the Scottish defense handing off Ross Ford. Scotland 9-21 Ireland.
Ireland had finally put some real daylight between the sides which forced Andy Robinson to bring in Dan Parks at fly half.
Parks showed his O'Gara like qualities instantly as he gave Scotland a foothold in the Irish 22 with a deft kick from hand.
A clearance from Eoin Reddan led to a Scottish counter attack which resulted in a penalty for Scotland at the expense of Jamie Heaslip. Chris Patterson stepped up and continued his quality kicking. Scotland 12-21 Ireland.
This trend of Try to Penalty would probably be enough for Ireland to win this game but a better side would have really punished Ireland today.
O'Gara replied to Parks with a wonderful kick to pin Scotland close to their line once again. Declan Kidney decided that it was time to bring a few changes to the Irish side calling on Sean Cronin(for Rory Best), Denis Leamy(for David Wallace) and Peter Stringer(for Eoin Reddan).
Leamy and Cronin instantly made an impact with tough carries through the middle of the Scottish defense before Donnacha O'Callaghan threw an errant pass. Ireland's mistakes had seemingly deflated the team as well as the game.
A tennis match of sorts was always inevitable after the introduction of Dan Parks as both teams looked to play territory and kick long now.
Just when a phase of rugby looked like breaking out from the Scottish side they threw the ball straight out over the line. This game had deteriorated from a poor game to an awful affair of rugby very quickly. Ireland lost the ensuing lineout and gave away a penalty at midfield at the breakdown. Nigel Davies finally warned the Irish for their penalty count, something that probably should have happened much earlier. Dan Parks converted the penalty to bring Scotland within one score. Scotland 15-21 Ireland.
Compounding Ireland's drop in performance, Ronan O'Gara's drop off went straight out of play to give Scotland another scrum at midfield. Seeking composure, Kidney brought on Leo Cullen. It tells you how bad a performance it was for the Irish when Kidney is close to emptying his bench.
The Scottish looked dangerous before another knock on gave possession back to Ireland. Ireland decided to return the favor almost instantly after an unforced knock on from captain Paul O'Connell.
Dan Parks had given Scotland new life as they ran well at the Irish defense. Max Evans eventually made the break through midfield that brought the team close to the Irish line. Ireland rebuffed them for the try before giving away another penalty. Parks decided to take a free shot at goal with a drop kick which he converted, which was probably a good thing for Dennis Leamy who would have seen yellow had they gone back for the penalty. Scotland 18-21 Ireland.
Jonathan Sexton was introduced for Ronan O'Gara.
A series of knock ons from both sides resulted in an impressive kick from Jonathan Sexton to move Scotland out of Irish territory.
Ireland were inviting pressure onto themselves with poor decision making that resulted in them going backwards with the ball. Jonathan Sexton ran when he should have kicked the ball before Gordon D'Arcy exposed himself to tackles by running sideways. Scotland eventually took over possession around midfield after Sean Cronin ran over the sideline.
Ireland were hanging on against the Scots now who were trying to break through the Irish defense but looked incapable of doing so initially against a defense that was unorganized and tired.
Sean O Brien and Dennis Leamy finally pulled the ball from Scottish hands just when Scotland were getting close to the Irish line which gave Brian O Driscoll the chance to kick clear. O Driscoll's kick skid off the side of his boot but gave the Irish a chance to take in breath.
Ireland conceded the lineout to Scotland who moved the ball from right to left looking for a gap. Scotland looked lost and Paul O Connell eventually dived on a loose ball allowing Luke Fitzgerald to kick the ball long. Oddly Ireland didn't take control and try to grind out the clock which allowed Scotland to counter attack.
Paul O Connell was coming up big in the games' dying moments as he once again stole the ball from a Scottish lineout. Once again Ireland kicked the ball instead of shutting down the game but Scotland lacked imagination and couldn't take the ball past the halfway line. Ireland eventually turned the ball over and Jonathan Sexton kicked the ball out of touch to escape Murrayfield with a narrow victory.
In possibly one of the worst games of Rugby you will see this year, Ireland were lucky to get a victory.
Scotland 18-21 Ireland.
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