Ireland wrap up Triple Crown with bonus-point win over Scotland

Conor Murray try completes comfortable victory to secure first silverware won on home soil since 2004

Ireland 26 Scotland 5

Ireland completed the Triple Crown and their half of the bargain, eventually sealing a bonus-point win with a Conor Murray try in the last play of the game and indeed their Six Nations campaign to finish on 21 points, three above France pending the tournament's grand finale in Paris.

With Ireland’s vastly superior points difference compared to France, (plus 105 to plus 56), that left Les Bleus having to beat England to not only win the Grand Slam but the championship as well.

There was a nice touch when around half the capacity crowd remained a few minutes after the final whistle for the Triple Crown trophy presentation and the injured duo of James Ryan and Andrew Conway were given the honour of first doing so.

It was the first time Ireland had lifted this trophy, or any kind of one, on home soil since 2004 and it was never in too much doubt, although Scotland were resilient and will rue some chances they left behind.

In what was again at times a frustratingly inaccurate performance, Ireland also misfired in attack and lost control of the game for a good chunk of the second period, conceding another three scrum penalties after the respective benches came into play.

In another attacking, ultra positive display there were plenty of handling errors, but this is an Irish team clearly on the right track, and as with their previous three wins, Ireland rolled up their sleeves and still varnished their fourth win with their fourth attacking bonus point.

Showing this route one side to their game as well, their 24 tries are an Irish record for the tournament, while they’ll also finish with the best defensive record. While the platform was laid up front, Hugo Keenan’s wondrous try-saving tackle on Stuart Hogg typified how much this team evidently enjoys defending too, with Mack Hansen also having a big game in this area.

The scrum was rock solid initially and fittingly two of the frontrowers, the outstanding Dan Sheehan and Cian Healy, set the wheels in motion with the first-half tries before Josh van der Flier continued his prolific season to set up the desired finale.

Scotland were quicker out of the blocks, with early breaks from a Darcy Graham counter and a snipe by Ali Price, before Pierre Schoeman broke through an unguarded fringe, and Ireland needed good defending by Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose on the edge to force a forward pass by Sam Johnson.

Hogg turned down a shot at goal from 40 metres to find touch seven metres out, but George Turner’s throw was not in tune with the lifters.

Sexton even missed a penalty to touch before the lively Jamison Gibson-Park brought the home team and crowd briefly to life with a big snipe but lacked for support. Nor did the Irish attack quite slip into its groove, Tadhg Beirne being unable to hold a hard, high pass by James Lowe.

Sexton completed a superb 50/22 to within five metres of the Scottish line but the maul was held up over the line, before the Irish captain did work his wraparound to link with Caelan Doris and Lowe superbly caught Jack Conan’s floated pass by his feet.

Ireland tapped one ensuing penalty and went to the corner with the second, a strong low drive infield off Iain Henderson's take ending with Sheehan exploding off the edge and through the tackles of Zander Fagerson and Blair Kinghorn to score.

Scotland didn't help themselves by their wingers twice chasing Price box kicks and bumping their opposing counterparts before they could compete for the ball. When Price was then offside, Ireland went upfield after the second of two rock solid scrums, which even prompted Wayne Barnes to inform Healy: "Great scrum Cian." Wept.

Ireland were then rewarded when reverting to route one off another penalty to the corner and lineout drive.

Six close-in carries and quick recycling culminated in Healy burrowing over for his third try in his last five Tests and 10th in total, with Sheehan and Beirne latching on.

But Scotland earned themselves a lifeline after strong counter-rucking by Jonny Gray led to Hamish Watson pouncing on the loose ball. Graham putting them on the front foot when beating Henderson on his inside before Schoeman burrowed over from close range, albeit Blair Kinghorn pushed an eminently kickable conversion wide.

Good spoiling by Grant Gilchrist denied Ireland before the interval when going to the corner but Ireland must have had a good half-time. Upping the tempo immediately upon the resumption after Doris won a penalty in the jackal, Gibson-Park tapped and broke from another one before grubbering for Hansen, who did brilliantly to keep the ball in play.

But Gibson-Park’s grubber for Lowe ended the attack before Watson lifted another siege when stripping the ball from Henderson, albeit illegally as The Ulster lock had his knee on the ground.

Scotland were still very much in the contest, but Hogg blew a try when declining to pass inside to Johnson metres from the line after he latched on to a deflected kick to break clear and was quite brilliantly tackled into touch by Keenan.

Barnes also checked what seemed an illegal arm into Henderson’s throat by Schoeman but deemed it was “not foul play as his arms are around the ball”.

Ireland kept banging on the door, twice more going to the corner only for Sam Skinner to pick off the throw to the tail before getting the next lineout right only for Doris to knock on Gibson-Park's pass.

Finally, they pounded the Scottish defence after Keenan ran back a kick. Both wingers worked off their wings to give the move impetus when Hansen sniped and offloaded to Lowe. Robbie Henshaw, with his first touch, and Doris charged at the line before suddenly a route opened up for Van der Flier out of what seemed a nothing pass from Gibson-Park and he accelerated and muscled through two tackles to score.

Still though, Scotland weren't going away. Hansen had to produce a couple of key tackles, first on Watson and then shooting up to engulf Mark Bennett – Ringrose and Peter O'Mahony counter-rucking for a turnover, before Finn Russell came on and put Bennett through a gap with a delayed disguised pass, requiring Hansen to come in off his wing and assist Keenan.

Eventually, after Scotland blew another chance by pre-latching, the crowd came alive when Graham was pinged for taking out an airborne O’Mahony, which ought to have been a yellow but Barnes was in one of his chatty and benevolent moods.

However, he had no choice but to brandish yellow when Ben White deliberately knocked on and Ireland went to the corner for the umpteenth time in search of that hitherto elusive bonus point. The Aviva, too, finally resembled something approaching fever pitch as a large chunk of the crowd broke into The Fields – for only the second time on the day and in three home games.

As in Twickenham, Murray sniped off the maul and fed Lowe, who carried ferociously and was helped by a trio of latchers – Henshaw, Rob Herring and Sexton – before Murray called for the return offload and used his strength to pirouette through the tackles of Graham, Rory Darge and WP Nel to score.

Quite the finale.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 17 mins: Sheehan try, Sexton con 7-0; 28: Healy try, Sexton con 14-0; 35: Schoeman try 14-5; (half-time 14-5); 60: Van der Flier try, Sexton con 21-5; 79: Murray try 16-5.

IRELAND: Hugo Keenan (Leinster); Mack Hansen (Connacht), Garry Ringrose (Leinster), Bundee Aki (Connacht), James Lowe (Leinster); Johnny Sexton (Leinster, capt), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster); Cian Healy (Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster); Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Iain Henderson (Ulster); Caelan Doris (Leinster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Jack Conan (Leinster).

Replacements: Dave Kilcoyne (Munster) for Healy, Peter O'Mahony (Munster) for Conan (both 52 mins), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster) for Aki (56), Rob Herring (Ulster) for Sheehan, Kieran Treadwell (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster) for Gibson-Park (all 63), Finlay Bealham (Connacht) for Furlong (68), Joey Carbery (Munster) for Keenan (74).

SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg (Exeter); Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Sam Johnson (Glasgow), Kyle Steyn (Glasgow); Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Ali Price (Glasgow); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow); Jonny Gray (Exeter), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh); Rory Darge (Glasgow), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow).

Replacements: Fraser Brown (Glasgow) for Turner, Sam Skinner (Exeter) for Gilchrist (both 51 mins), WP Nel (Edinburgh) for Z Fagerson (55), Ben White (London Irish) for Price, Mark Bennett (Edinburgh) for Johnson (both 61), Josh Bayliss (Bath) for M Fagerson (63 ), Finn Russell (Racing 92) for Harris (67), Allan Dell (London Irish) for Schoeman (74).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

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