15. Rob Kearney: 8
Marked his 50th Irish cap with well deserved try which encapsulated a powerful display at fullback. Kearney ran hard, direct lines all afternoon and showed great awareness to stop a Scottish kick to touch from finding its target.
14. Andrew Trimble: 7.5
Trimble scored the first of three Irish tries on his first Six Nations start since 2011 which gave the game a completely different complexion on the stroke of half time. He was aggressive and competed well for box kicks, although the magnificent Stuart Hogg skinned him on a couple of occasions.
13. Brian O’Driscoll: 7.5
Now Ireland’s most capped international, O’Driscoll was targeted by the Scottish attack on his 129th appearance but the veteran coped well and topped the tackling stats with 14. He gives away half a yard to most backs nowadays but makes up for that with clever lines, and was unlucky that his offload to Chris Henry didn’t go to hand in the first half.
12. Luke Marshall: 7.5
Hammered backwards in his first meaningful touch, Marshall came back well with a strong showing in the centre. His direct running fixed the Scottish defence, and he showed the impressive range of his passing as Scottish legs tired in the last quarter.
11. Dave Kearney: 8
Got more involved as the match progressed, his kick chase was exemplary early on and his reading of the game appears to improve with each cap. Kearney junior topped the stats for carrying, running 82 metres with ball in hand but he was denied a late try as Paddy Jackson’s awkward chip to the corner just landed over the dead ball line.
10. Johnny Sexton: 8.5
Played his way into the game in the early stages until he produced a magical break in which he stepped inside three Scottish defenders, put on the afterburners and then floated a perfect pass out wide for Jamie Heaslip who was unlucky not to score in the corner. Thereafter Sexton controlled the game in the second half and kicked thirteen points with the boot.
9. Conor Murray: 7
This wasn’t vintage Murray – he struggled particularly in the first half hour as Scotland disrupted Irish ball with effective counter rucking, but as the game developed and Ireland began to dominate the breakdown he became more of a threat and stepped up the tempo.
1. Cian Healy: 8
Fronted up at scrum time and won an intriguing battle against Moray Low which allowed Ireland to dominate the Scottish pack. Healy carried more threat in the second half, including one typically rampaging run before being replaced by Jack McGrath after an hour.
2. Rory Best: 7.5
The value of a hooker who can perform the basics at scrum time has certainly been overlooked in the modern game recently, but Best showed the benefits of possessing those skills twice helping to steal Scottish possession against the head. The set piece was much more secure than last year, Ireland winning 86% of their own lineout ball and 100% in the scrum.
3. Mike Ross: 7
Failed to make much headway in the loose but despite concern about his adaption of new scrum laws performed his duties well in a solid Irish set piece. Ross was replaced after an hour by young prodigy Marty Moore, and could see his game time increasingly limited with his Leinster teammate seemingly taking to test rugby like the proverbial duck to water.
4. Devin Toner: 8
A disruptive force around the contact area with some crucial counter rucking and a total of ten tackles which tied him third amongst the Irish contingent. Toner used his giant frame to provide secure lineout ball despite the spoiling intentions of Jim Hamilton, and showed good hands in the loose too.
5. Dan Tuohy: 7.5
A late replacement for Paul O’Connell, ruled out with a chest infection, Tuohy gave a good account of himself in his first Six Nations start. The heavy hitting Ulsterman made nine tackles and his contribution to Rob Kearney’s try demonstrated his ability to beat the first tackle and offload.
6. Peter O’Mahony: 8
We didn’t see too much of O’Mahony in the loose but his work in close quarters was exemplary as usual. He had a hand in more than a few turnovers and was a constant menace when Scotland had possession. The Munster captain clearly has little regard for his body, and provides a useful alternative option as an extra jumper in the lineout.
7. Chris Henry: 8.5
Joe Schmidt has long been an admirer of the Ulsterman’s work ethic and predatory instincts at the breakdown, and it was pleasing to see Henry play well on Sunday afternoon. He topped the tackling statistics in the forwards with 11, but also ran a great supporting line in the lead up to Rob Kearney’s try showing there’s more to his game than defensive proficiency.
8. Jamie Heaslip: 8.5
The stand-in skipper was Ireland’s top ball carrier in the pack, taking the ball on 51 metres, and tied third with Toner and Marshall for tackling. It was a colossal battle with Scottish number eight David Denton, and at one stage the Edinburgh man looked to have the better of his opponent but Heaslip came back superbly to take the MOTM accolade. His left foot brushed the whitewash denying him a Kieran Read-like try in the first half, but he would eventually get his score (shared with a cheeky hand from Rory Best) at the base of an Irish rolling maul after the break.
Sean Cronin, Martin Moore and Jack McGrath all made their presence known in the last quarter coming off an Irish bench which undoubtedly has the potential to make waves in this championship. All three front row replacements made inroads into a tiring Scottish defence, and McGrath was a threat in the ruck.
With the game settled Schmidt had the luxury of being able to empty the bench late on. Tommy O’Donnell was given 15 minutes in the back row, Paddy Jackson tried a couple of delicate dinks in attack and Fergus McFadden ran hard when given the opportunity in midfield but with Scotland already well beaten we can’t read too much into their cameo appearances, or those of Iain Henderson and Isaac Boss.
By David Blair (@viscount_dave)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images