Saturday, February 23, 2008

Croke Park Cracker

Six Nations Game 8 - Ireland vs Scotland (34-13)

The first few minutes presented Scotland with a penalty chance, but Chris Paterson opted not to take the 3 points, insted going for a bigger pirze. Unfortunately, Ireland weren't letting the Scots through their defence and the chance for any points went begging.

The first 20 minutes saw Scotland showing plenty of endeavour, but no points on the board. But with so little territory, Ireland made the most of their time on Scottish soil, and David Wallace broke from the back o f a close-range scrum, then snuck over the line right under the posts. Ronan O'Gara added the conversion and Ireland took a 7-0 lead.

In the 24th minute, Scotland got themselves on the board when Paterson kicked a long penalty, trailing by 4 points 7-3. But minutes later, Ireland cut through the Scots when Ronan O'Gara picked up from a ruck, passed to Brian O'Driscoll [right] who floated a long pass out to Rob Kearney on the wing, who scored his first try for Ireland. O'Gara had no problem with the conversion, and Ireland pulled away at 14-3. Paterson kicked another penalty to nibble back three points, 14-6.

Scotland pressured the Irish line with five minutes to go - they got to the line but were held up: the resulting scrum saw Ireland give a huge shove, and the Scots had to marshall themselves again from the 10m line. They got themselves up to the corner flag again. Initially, Scotland won a penalty, but Nathan Hines swung an arm at an Irish head, and the penalty was reversed.

The Irish got the perfect start to the second half, winning the restart kick and O'Gara punted the ball into the corner to find Marcus Horan - a prop - waiting on the wing to roll over. With the conversion clean, they pulled away to 19-6. They made it 22-6 in the 49th minute with another penalty from O'Gara. Ireland were looking comfortable.

Complacency is a gangerous thing - Simon Webster [left] took a flat pass from Paterson and ran in for a try, with Paterson adding the extras - Scotland were back in the game at 22-13.

Scotland went on the attack in the 61st minute, but the Irish intercepted, O'Gara did a wonderful reverse flick pass and it went through hands to Tommy Bowe [right] on the wing, who just had the reach to stretch over for a try as he was tackled. Again, O'Gara added the extras and Ireland stretched their lead to 29-13.

The Irish bench got some exercise with a raft of subsitutions. Then with five minutes to go, Scots substitute Jim Hamilton was stretchered off with a splint on his leg. Not confirmed, but it definitely looked like a break. It will be a big blow for Scotland in forthcoming matches if he's out for any length of time. Euan Murray also limped off, and Ross Ford had to come back on as a prop, so the next scrums were played uncontested.

The dying minutes seemed all blown out, but Tommy Bowe jinked over for a second try after the Scots fumbled a pass, the ball picked up by Andrew Trimble and then passed to Shane Horgan and out to the winger. The final score ended up 34-13 and Ireland looked very much more in control than they have over their last two games.

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