Ireland 26 Scotland 5
IRELAND secured the 12th Triple Crown in their history with a hard-fought victory over a game Scottish side at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A last-minute Conor Murray try secured the bonus point to put as much pressure as possible on Grand Slam chasing France, who play England this evening.
Both sides had shown serious attacking intent in the opening quarter of an hour but neither side were able to make that tell on the scoreboard, with wonderful breaks from Darcy Graham and Jamison Gibson-Park both ultimately coming to nothing.
Ireland finally got the scoreboard moving when Leinster hooker Dan Sheehan blasted over from close range, when he broke away off the back of an attacking Irish maul in the 18th minute, with captain Jonathan Sexton adding the extras to give Ireland the perfect start.
Ireland were completely dominant in terms of possession and territory in the minutes after that opening score, and after yet another strong Sheehan carry got Ireland close to the Scottish line, the loose head prop Cian Healy was able to muscle his way over from close range with the assistance of a hefty Tadhg Beirne latch in the 27th minute.
It was not all one-way traffic, however, with the livewire Darcy Graham sparking Scotland into life with a couple of slippery snipes, and when the away side got close to the Irish line their burly loosehead Pierre Schoeman managed to touch the whitewash with the ball thanks to a brilliant low dive under the Irish defensive cover from close range in the 35th minute to make it 14-5 at the half time break.
Ireland started the second half in high-octane fashion, with Gibson-Park being really influential in terms of putting real pace on the ball, but credit to the Scottish defence for holding firm in the face of what was a real Irish onslaught in those opening second-half minutes.
There was then a huge let-off for Ireland in the 49th minute as Scotland looked certain to score when Scottish captain Stuart Hogg picked up a loose ball down the right-wing, but instead of giving a simple pass inside to his centre Sam Johnson for the certain five-pointer, he backed himself to go around Hugo Keenan himself, only to be wrapped up and bundled into touch by his opposite number. It was a wonderful try-saving tackle by Ireland’s brilliant full-back but a moment of selfishness that will make Hogg cringe in the review room.
Ireland capitalised on the let-off by grabbing the next score exactly ten minutes later when openside flanker Josh van der Flier blasted over from 5m after being fed by Gibson-Park after the ball had squirted loose from a Caelan Doris carry.
Ireland were keen to sign-off their Six Nations campaign by putting as much pressure as possible on the Grand Slam chasing French side by leaving with all five match points on offer, but a second half littered with a high error count seemed to end all ambitions of securing the fourth try, and indeed, for a considerable spell it was Scotland who had looked the most likely to grab the next try.
However, a 78th-minute yellow card for replacement scrum-half Ben White gave Ireland one final chance to grab that elusive bonus point and ironically it was the other no. 21 on the pitch who got it.
James Lowe found himself in possession in the middle of a maul that was rumbling towards the Scottish line when he somehow managed to pop the ball to the waiting Conor Murray, who gleefully accepted the pass before crashing through the tackles of Darcy Graham and Finn Russell to send the Aviva Stadium crowd home happy.
Sexton (3 cons), Sheehan, Healy, van der Flier, Murray (1 try each).
Schoeman (1 try).
Keenan; Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe; Sexton (c), Gibson-Park; Healy, Sheehan, Furlong; Beirne, Henderson; Doris, van der Flier, Conan.
Kilcoyne and O’Mahony for Healy and Conan (52), Henshaw for Aki (56), Treadwell for Henderson (63), Herring for Sheehan (63), Murray for Gibson-Park (67), Bealham for Furlong (68), Carbery for Keenan (74).
Hogg (c); Graham, Harris, Johnson, Steyn; Kinghorn, Price; Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson; Gray, Gilchrist; Darge, Watson, M Fagerson.
Brown and Skinner for Turner and Gilchrist (51), Nel for Z Fagerson (54), Bennett for Johnson (60), White for Price (61), Bayliss for M Fagerson (63), Russell for Harris (67), Dell for Schoeman (74).
Wayne Barnes (RFU)