Scotland recorded their first win over Ireland for six years, with a well-deserved 31-21 victory, but what will the two sides’ coaches have learnt?
Frank Hadden will have learnt that Scotland aren’t so bad after all. They showed significant improvement since some dismal displays in the Six Nations, suggesting that the team’s 5 weeks together have been well spent. Their forwards were powerful and dynamic, and the whole team used offloads effectively to maintain momentum in attack. Jason White and Ali Hogg in particular were outstanding, whilst a hat-trick from centre Andy Henderson will have caught the coach’s eye.
Meanwhile, Eddie O’Sullivan will have been reminded of the influence of his experienced half backs Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara. Ireland seemed unable to keep control of the ball without O’Gara, and they missed his outstanding kicking out of hand. In such wet conditions, Ireland needed him to keep Scotland pinned back by kicking for the corners. Tommy Bowe made a couple of mistakes on the wing, which could see Brian Carney claim the place in the squad, but neither player got much ball. Nevertheless, the Ireland coach knows his starting lineup, and the game was less important for him than it was for Hadden.
Ireland’s forwards were compreshesively outplayed in the first half, with Scotland’s eight dominating the set piece and applying pressure at the breakdown. Chris Paterson at fly-half did not look completely comfortable and did not provide much quality ball to his backline, despite the fact that Henderson scored three tries. However, it was not a day to be flinging the ball wide and Hadden will not be too disappointed after such a dominant display by the forwards.
After the break, the Irish pack managed to provide some momentum to the Irish side, allowing the backs some possession and space to run at Scotland’s defence. They closed the gap to just three points, and when Ronan O’Gara came on, it looked as though the Irish would steal the day.
The Scots had other ideas though, and substituted half-backs Chris Cusiter and Dan Parks showed their coach their ability to regain control of the game. They took their chance following a scrum deep in Ireland’s territory to score a try and secure a morale-boosting victory.
O’Sullivan will announce his World Cup squad tomorrow morning, whilst Hadden may want to wait until the Tuesday deadline to mull over his options.