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A thoroughly professional performance, that’s the best way to describe Ireland's performance against Scotland today. Irelands form going into the game today had been ropey and the Scots were confident of getting a crucial win today. In the end, it turned out to be a very one-sided affair. Ireland pack dominated in nearly every facet of play and the Scots backline never got into the game. Ireland will be very satisfied with their performance today but for the Scots, it’s back to the drawing board.
The Pack - Ireland targeted Scotland in the forwards and did a number on them. The Scots couldn’t create any forward momentum. The win was built on this rock-solid platform and some terrific breaks from CJ Stander and Henderson. Questions had been asked of Stander and boy did he step up to the plate, carrying hard and making some impressive breaks. Similar with Henderson. Much had been made of Toner not being picked and how the Scots would target the lineout. Henderson answered many of those questions today.
The Ireland pack dominated in all areas and had the Scots under serious serious trouble. As early as the 35th you realised how much trouble the Scots were in after Stander's big break, several of the Scottish players were gassed, that early. It didn’t really get any better for them as the game develops and the sight of Andrew Porter and Dave Kilcoyne coming on for Healy and a terrific Tadhg Furlong didn’t help matters. This game was the perfect example of the old adage forwards win you games.
The injury issues Ireland had before this game raised some questions as to how ready would Ireland be for this match. Shorn Earls, Kearney and Henshaw, in particular, the backline was inexperienced at the international level. Aki going off early didn’t help things, the lads on the field put in a solid performance.
The Irish defence had the Scots constantly on the back foot and they couldn’t get into the game. Larmour was calm and collected under the high ball and Conway took his try terrifically. A shoutout for Jacob Stockdale's defensive performance as well. It has been the one area of his game that’s been under close scrutiny but he put in some big hits, especially against Hogg that killed one of the few chances the Scots got.
Farrell as well off the bench put in a serious shift and made max use of his large frame but also had one or two nice touches as well.
The game v Argentina in 2015 came to mind watching this game. Then with key injuries to Sexton & O Mahony Ireland really struggled. This time around Ireland was able to adapt their game to O’Mahony going off and Sexton not being 100%. Jack Carty had a very good game when he came on playing some really smart wet weather rugby dinking the ball in behind the Scots defence and having them turn again and again. With Sexton, it may be a case of getting him through the game v Japan and then getting him as close to 100% as possible. Murray also saw a return to form and his box kicks were a constant threat.
When both teams arrived out for the second half to some pretty poor weather conditions it was the last thing the Scots wanted to see. Their game is based on unstructured open play which is next to impossible in wet conditions (unless you’re the All Blacks). The weather didn’t play as huge a role many expected but it did stymie Scotlands play as handling errors were to the fore. The bonus point try killed the game off.
At one point the camera cut to the Scottish bench in the second half. It was like a funeral. They failed to land a single punch in the game and will be hugely disappointed with that performance. Finn Russell can be either very very good or very very bad. Today, you’d only know he was playing because he was on the team sheet. Hogg did try and get into the game but nothing went right for them. Their kicking game turned sloppy and they seemed to kick for the sake of it. It was as bad as any performance by the Scots at the World Cup and they’re very lucky that they don’t have to play the hosts till the final round.
• For Ireland - Rest, recuperate and get ready for the game against the hosts next Saturday knowing another performance like this one and they’ll be in the driving seat.
• For Scotland - Back to the drawing board and aim to get their game back on track against Samoa and Russia before the crucial final match.
Side Note: As good as today's performance was if Ireland ends up playing the Springboks in the quarter then they’ll be facing a team who will look to do to us what we did to Scotland. The worrying thing is they have the power and the strength to do so.
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