IRELAND'S Grand Slam ambitions remain on course, despite a huge injury list, after Andy Farrell’s side proved to be far too streetwise for Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon.
Ireland thought they had scored in the fifth minute when Dan Sheehan dove over after a botched quick Scotland lineout, but the referee ruled out the score as the Scots had restarted the game with the incorrect football.
They did register the first score when captain Johnny Sexton slotted a straightforward penalty from in front of the Scottish posts in the 12th minute.
Ireland got a huge wake-up call in the 18th minute when Sione Tuipulotu sent his centre partner Huw Jones through a gap to score under the posts for the opening try of the game after Scotland had capitalised on a loose Conor Murray clearance.
Ireland had lost Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan and Iain Henderson to knocks inside the opening 24 minutes, which were considerable blows, but Mack Hansen settled nerves as he scored a superb try in the right corner in the 28th minute when he somehow grounded the ball, despite the best efforts of Duhan van der Merwe, after Hugo Keenan had fizzed a huge pass to the Connacht wing.
The game was being played at breakneck speed and soon after van der Merwe butchered what looked a certain try when he failed to pass to teammates in space out wide, and right on half time Scotland got close once more, but an excellent Andrew Porter tackle ushered Scott Cummings into touch, to ensure Ireland enjoyed a 7-8 half time lead.
When Ronan Kelleher had to leave the field in the 49th minute, to be replaced by loosehead prop Cian Healy, Ireland were without a hooker, and openside Josh van der Flier had to take on lineout throwing duties.
However, this was a mere speed bump in Ireland’s Grand Slam ambitions, with Hansen getting his side on the font foot once more when he gathered a box kick by Jamison Gibson-Park, and after Ireland had probed for a minute or so James Lowe was able to crash over in the left corner in the 58th minute, to give Ireland an eight-point cushion.
Jack Conan then gave Ireland some daylight when he slapped the ball down in the right corner in the 62nd minute after the impressive Hansen had sent a bullet of a pace his way, and the Scottish challenge petered away thereafter.
F Russell (1 con), H Jones (1 try).
J Sexton (1 pen, 2 cons), M Hansen, J Lowe, J Conan (1 try each).
S Hogg; K Steyn, H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell, B White; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson; R Gray, J Gray; M Fagerson, J Ritchie (c), J Dempsey.
S Cummings for R Gray (6), J Bhatti and S Berghan for P Schoeman and Z Fagerson (54), F Brown and A Price for G Turner and B White (58), B Kinghorn for S Hogg (65), H Watson for M Fagerson (67), C Harris for F Russell (80).
H Keenan; M Hansen, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Lowe; J Sexton (c), C Murray; A Porter, D Sheehan, T Furlong; I Henderson, J Ryan, P O'Mahony, J van der Flier, C Doris.
J Conan for C Doris (13), R Kelleher for D Sheehan (19), R Baird for I Henderson (24), C Healy for R Kelleher (49), J Gibson-Park for C Murray (54), , R Henshaw for B Aki (67), R Byrne for J Sexton (71), B Aki for G Ringrose (73).
Luke Pearce (RFU).