Generals let us down as we failed to close out a tight game again
Inside Lamont was Matt Scott, whose exuberance to lead the line in defence pulled him out of shape, which Luke Marshall initially exploited, especially on six minutes. In carrying with both hands with decoy runners he put sufficient doubt in the Scottish defence to cause confusion and in those moments he scampered through. Strangely, Ireland didn’t consistently attack these weaknesses. Scotland made 128 tackles but missed 16 (Ireland four) and had Ireland been more clinical they would have scored; but they didn’t and in leaving them off the hook afforded Scotland the chance to keep working, which they did, deserving huge credit.
The breakdown was completely dominated by Ireland’s 106 vs Scotland’s 29 ruck clearance. On 49 minutes Rob Harley got over the tackled Kearney to steal the ball but Jamie Heaslip arrived and simply peeled him away. Unfortunately Ireland’s hunger for turnovers and counter-rucks led to penalties. But as the phases were being built Scotland once again stayed disciplined where Ireland needed to keep pace on the time between ball-carrier entering contact and scrumhalf whipping away. Ireland eked little reward from their multi-phase plays, especially with Scotland down to 14 men.
Drop goals vs multi-phase
This is where tactical decisions come into play. Subconsciously, how did Paddy Jackson’s presence on the pitch guide Heaslip’s decision-making to avoid early three-pointers? Three-points vs five; drop goals vs multiphase; keep the board ticking over, especially away from home, and especially against a side that needed to be killed off before they came to life. Ireland didn’t gain return from each visit into Scotland’s 22.
Jackson looked for narrow targets off the blindside winger or O’Brien followed by Marshall carrying. When you don’t have the ball you don’t make errors, but you struggle to score tries. Scotland chose to fill the field in defence and, when getting the ball, box-kicked supremely to get out of their half. The quality of Scottish box kicks forced a brilliant aerial display from Gilroy. Ireland ended up playing much of their rugby too far from the Scottish line, where Jackson’s naivety searched for the jugular too far out.
As for performances, Scotland’s front five were immense. Individually, O’Brien was brilliant ball in hand but Brian O’Driscoll was immense in his support lines and his selfless clearing of rucks. The real performance is that of an Ireland coach who can’t justify the loss in learning to how to finish out tight matches. Three of his four provinces would have.