Ireland 31 Scotland 16
A BRACE of tries from winger Keith Earls inspired Ireland to victory in the third/fourth place play-off in the Autumn Nations Cup at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Ireland recovered from an extremely poor opening half an hour to eventually wrestle control of the tie, with Andy Farrell’s side eventually running out comfortable winners.
Jonathan Sexton missed a penalty from 40 metres in the sixth minute, and his opposite number Jaco van der Walt did the same when striking the post with an 11th-minute effort of his own, although the debutant Scottish out-half made no mistake with a simpler penalty just two minutes later.
Scotland were the better side at this juncture, only to be undermined by two knock-ons by van der Walt when in good attacking positions, although the Edinburgh man made no mistake with another well-struck penalty in the 20th minute, to increase Scotland’s early lead.
Sexton got another penalty in the 23rd minute and this time he made no mistake from long range to get Ireland on the board, but almost immediately Ireland’s discipline let them down again as van der Walt kicked a 26th-minute penalty.
By this stage, Ireland had already missed 14 tackles as Ireland’s performance levels just were not at the required level.
Ireland had done little as an attacking entity, but when Scottish centre Duncan Taylor got sin-binned in the 31st minute for a deliberate knock-on Ireland had a huge opportunity to drive their numerical advantage home, and they started with a simple Sexton penalty.
They then parked the Scots back on their own line through a series of forced penalties, and Ireland were awarded just before half time when a speculative Sexton kick was knocked back by Robbie Henshaw allowing Keith Earls to dot down for his 31st international try, to ensure Ireland led 11-9 at half time despite Scotland being the better side for the majority of the half.
Ireland started the second half in a much more positive manner with Cian Healy going over from close range in the 44th minute after number eight Caelan Doris had made the hard yards, and when Sexton added the extras Ireland were suddenly in total control.
It wasn’t long before Ireland were in again, with Henshaw and Peter O’Mahony combining to send Earls in for his second try in the left corner in the 50th minute, but the prolific winger Duhan van der Merwe scored an opportunistic try from the base of a ruck in the 56th minute, after a badly missed tackle by Rob Herring, to keep Scotland in the tie.
However, replacement out-half Ross Byrne kept the scoreboard ticking over with a simple penalty in the 66th minute and 10 minutes later he added another to seal the tie by putting Ireland more than three scores ahead.
Sexton (2 pens, 2 cons), Byrne (2 pens), Earls (2 tries), Healy (1 try).
van der Walt (3 pens, 1 con), van der Merwe (1 try).
Stockdale, Keenan, Henshaw, Aki, Earls, Sexton, Murray; Healy, Herring, Porter, Henderson, Ryan, Stander, O'Mahony, Doris.
Roux for Henderson (39), van der Flier for O’Mahony (52 HIA), O’Mahony for van der Flier (62), Byrne for Sexton (64), van der Flier, O’Sullivan, Kelleher for Doris, Healy and Herring (66), Ryan for Porter (75), Doris for Ryan (76), Farrell and Gibson-Park for Henshaw and Murray (78).
Hogg, Graham, Harris, Taylor, van der Merwe, van der Walt, Price; Sutherland, Brown, Fagerson, Cummings, Gray, Thomson, Ritchie, Fagerson.
Maitland for Graham (57), Skinner, Kebble and Jones for Cummings, Sutherland and Taylor (64), Cowan for Ritchie (65), Nel and Turner for Fagerson and Brown (66), Price for Hidalgo-Clyne (75).
Matthew Carley (England).