Ireland’s 2009 RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam hopes are still alive after Declan Kidney’s side negotiated a tricky tie in Murrayfield, emerging 22-15 winners over Scotland on Saturday evening.
A sole try for Jamie Heaslip – which was created by Man of the Match Peter Stringer – was the difference between the teams, with Ronan O’Gara finding his kicking boots once again after a dreadful showing against England two weeks ago.
The first half was a kicking battle between O’Gara and The Scots’ full-back Chris Paterson, with Heaslip’s try ten minutes after the break moving Ireland into the lead for the first time.
From there, two more kicks from O’Gara – including an excellent drop goal – ensured victory, with Ireland controlling the final quarter of the contest with little difficulty.
An early line break from winger Simon Danielli set Scotland’s stall out, Frank Hadden’s side getting their runners on the attack from the off.
O’Gara was penalised for hands in the ruck in the sixth minute and that allowed Chris Paterson kick his side into the lead.
Ireland’s first real passage of play was brought to an end when David Wallace was pinged by referee Jonathan Kaplan for not releasing, but the visitors were level a minute later after Jim Hamilton was caught with his hands in another ruck.
O’Gara split the posts with the resulting penalty, dispelling all concern about his kicking game following his problems against England – much to the relief of the vocal Irish sections of the crowd.
Scotland regained their advantage within minutes though, Wallace whistled up for not rolling away and, despite the blustery conditions, Paterson converted.
Paterson moved The Scots 9-3 ahead with another kick – right in front of the posts this time round – after O’Driscoll was punished for trying to root the ball out while it was still on The Scots’ side.
Ireland got their first real chance to get some decent ball time on the half-hour mark when they worked through the phases Munster-style before Simon Taylor was adjudged to have wandered offside at the ruck. O’Gara collected the penalty with ease, becoming the RBS 6 Nations highest ever scorer in the competition's history in the process.
It was also at this stage of the match that Ireland lost the services of Denis Leamy to a shoulder injury though, Heaslip introduced to the action in place of his fellow backrower.
Scotland re-established their six-point lead courtesy of a collapsed Irish scrum not long after, but the Irish hit back immediately with another penalty of their own after the home side made a mess of collecting the restart.
The Scots kept up the pressure though, and only a late tackle from O’Driscoll on Phil Godman prevented a possible try for the hosts just before the interval – following a wonderful chip and charge forward from Thom Evans.
The scores stood at 12-9 for the half-time whistle, and initial minutes of the second period of play were scrappy as both sides upped the intensity.
The game’s crucial turning point arrived ten minutes in when Peter Stringer gathered a lineout ball from Heaslip, and the Munster man went on a mazy run before returning the ball to Ireland’s stand-in number eight, who touched down despite the attentions of Paterson.
Scotland pressed forward, forcing Ireland to defend two lineouts close to their own line, immediately after but when O’Gara added a drop kick to his match tally on 57 minutes, heads went down on Scotland’s side.
John Hayes was penalised for play in the ruck on the hour mark – which allowed Paterson move Scotland back to within four – but it was O’Gara who was relied on once again with another excellent kick at the posts.
That left the scores at 15-22 in the visitors’ favour, and they went about controlling the final 15 minutes of the game in a manner Kidney would have been proud of while in charge of a certain team in Red..