Saturday was a deflating afternoon at Murrayfield for Scotland as they buckled under the weight of heavy expectation and failed to deliver what would have been a massive pre-World Cup psychological blow to Ireland ahead of their September meeting in Yokohama at the 2019 World Cup.
Scotland came into the round two fixture in Edinburgh full of belief that they could secure a second win in their opening two matches in the championship for the first time since 1996.
However, despite taking an early lead, that advantage was short-lived and they went on to perform like a team that is struggling in proving to everyone that they are the real deal under Gregor Townsend.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 9, 2019
This was an opportunity to make a real statement of intent but other than an excellent first-half try from Sam Johnson, their play was generally hampered by a series of handling errors and a lack of impact at the breakdown.
They were also too naive on occasion, in particular when chasing down a try near the end of the first-half when they could have instead opted for a kick that would have given them an interval lead and bolstered confidence that winning was possible.
Their second-half performance became ponderous and they never looked like causing an upset despite Ireland not being at the top of their own game. Here’s how the Scotland players rated:
15. STUART HOGG – 6
Lasted just 17 minutes of a bruising contest and his exit was immediately felt as Ireland raced in under the posts to score their second try after played restarted. Had looked threatening running the ball in the early exchanges but got roughed up in a similar way to how the Scots knocked Johnny Sexton out of his stride and out of the game.
14. TOMMY SEYMOUR – 5
Horrendously at fault for Ireland’s opening try. Instead of demonstrating the composure you would expect with his experience, he panicked under the pressure of Chris Farrell chasing Jacob Stockdale’s kick and instead of taking the tackle, he tossed a silly pass over the head of Sean Maitland and into the grateful are of Conor Murray. Denied a scoring response by Stockdale’s tackle late in the first half.
13. HUW JONES – 5
Much was expected of Jones and he failed to deliver. A soft earful knock-on was indicative of how be played below his usual standard and while he went on to encouragingly break the Irish line with a run with the scoreline at 3-12, he couldn’t make his presence sufficiently felt on the half-dozen times he was in possession.
12. SAM JOHNSON- 6
Showed his class with the intelligent support line he ran when following Russell after the out-half had picked Joey Carbery’s pocket. It was an excellent score. However, unlike a week ago when he racked up a 76 metres against the less together Italian defence, his room to manoeuvre was greatly restricted and he was pulled fro the fray with 16 minutes remaining.
11. SEAN MAITLAND – 5
Called up in place of Blair Kinghorn, who had scored a try hat-trick against Italy, Maitland didn’t justify the switch. His lack of reliability was evident the he arrived at too quick a pace to take the pass from a panicked Seymour for the opening try and his lacklustre day was rounded off by him lamely throwing the ball into touch in the latter stages.
FT | Wasn't to be today at BT Murrayfield as Ireland negotiate a win with a physical performance in the first game of the weekend in the @SixNationsRugby Championship.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 9, 2019
10. FINN RUSSELL – 6
Was Scotland’s liveliest threat but needed more support from those around him to make a result-changing impact. Wasn’t helped by supply of slow ruck ball from Greig Laidlaw. Quicker ball would have allowed him to pose more questions of the Ireland defence. Still, produced a moment of individual brilliance to burgle Carbery near halfway and then was magnificent in keeping the ball alive when tackled by Keith Earls to pop the assist to the scoring Johnson.
9. GREIG LAIDLAW – 5
He put Scotland ahead with a seventh minute penalty, but the lack of tempo in his game was evident when he had a pass picked off by Johnny Sexton not long after. His passing was often too slow away from the breakdown on a day when speed was needed to better test the Irish rearguard who would have had doubts following last weekend’s struggle with England.
1. ALLAN DELL – 6
One of the five Scottish forwards whose tackle count was above 20. It was an energetic contribution and he was among a number of players who left his mark Sexton in the early exchanges with a meaty tackle after the ball had gone.
2. STUART McINALLY – 7
Was one of the few Scottish players who did well in the second half when the match was there to be won. While others seemed to retreat within themselves, McInally fought the good fight and was seeing smashing into Earls and then ripping ball from Tadhg Furlong’s grasp. His aggressiveness was encouraging but he was called ashore on 64 minutes.
3. SIMON BERGHAN- 4
Called up to start following the injury to WP Nel, the omens weren’t good for Berghan following his low quality cameo as a sub against Italy where wound up sin-binned. There were no cards here, just a penalty given away at a scrum early on, but he had little involvement and was gone with 11 minutes left to play.
4. GRANT GILCHRIST – 5
This lock is the type of individual who will tackle all day long coach Townsend. He was Scotland;’s joint top tackler against the Azzurri and his count wasn’t shabby here either, his 24 just one behind Jonny Gray and two behind Josh Strauss. However, his team needed more than defensive doggedness and he wasn’t able to provide anything in attack.
5. JONNY GRAY – 6
Had a similar afternoon to his engine room colleague Gilchrist. Excellent without the ball, limited with it and until this changes, his pack will struggle to break the gain line when it really matters in the big games. At fault for two of the seven penalties Scotland conceded.
6. RYAN WILSON – 5
The blindside led the way with ball carries against the Italians, but he was sadly missed here when he exited at the break and didn’t return. Not that he enjoyed the most significant of first-halves. He missed a lineout catch after Ireland had gone 5-3 in front.
7. JAMES RITCHIE – 6
Another forward who commendably tackled himself to a standstill. He went off for some treatment near the end of the first half, returning to play the entire second. However, while he looked impressive when forcing the turnover that led to the penalty that got Scotland back to only 13-19 in arrears, his silly tackle for the side ion 75 minutes allowed Ireland wind down the clock.
8. JOSH STRAUSS – 6
Was Scotland’s stand-out forward, topping the tackle chart and accounting for a whole pile of ball carrying. He was credited with making 38 metres off his 17 carries as he gamely attempted to take the scrappy contest to Ireland. However, it was his infringement at a ruck that allowed the visitors pull 22-13 clear and see out their win.
16. FRASER BROWN – 5
Introduced on 64 minutes but to no avail as Scotland coudn’t generate any late momentum.
17. JAMIE BHATTI – No rating
Thrown on with 11 minutes remaining for Dell.
18. D’ARCY RAE – No rating
Given an 11-minute debut as a late sub for Berghan.
19. BEN TOOLIS – No rating
Was left unused on the bench.
20. ROB HARLEY – 4
Came on a few minutes before the interval as a blood replacement for Ritchie and he then stayed on with Wilson’s withdrawal. Tackled often but at fault with Dell for the crucial Carbery break that gave Earls his score.
21. ALI PRICE – No rating
Had 11 minutes in place of Laidlaw and his knock-on ended the game.
22. PETER HORNE – 4
Sent on for Johnson on 64 minutes but was unable to swing momentum in his team’s favour.
23. BLAIR KINGHORN – 6
Last week’s try-scoring hero had to make do with a place on the bench, but he got an early call on 17 minutes for Hogg and carried well for the most part in clocking up just short of 100 metres.
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