Six Nations 2020: Ireland win 19-12 against wasteful Scotland
|2020 Six Nations|
|Ireland (10) 19|
|Tries: Sexton Con: Sexton Pens: Sexton 4|
|Scotland (6) 12|
|Pens: Hastings 4|
Andy Farrell's reign as Ireland coach got off to a winning but unimpressive start as his side earned a fortunate 19-12 Six Nations win over Scotland.
New captain Johnny Sexton scored all of Ireland's points, including a first-half try, as the hosts profited from Scotland's inability to take chances.
Scotland's new skipper Stuart Hogg's knock-on over the line in the second half summed up his side's try-less day.
Man-of-the-match CJ Stander's late turnover secured Ireland's win.
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It was a game that leaves both camps much to ponder before challenging matches next weekend.
The home side got the win but will know a similar performance against Wales next week will surely result in defeat.
Ireland were looking to rediscover their identify following a troubled World Cup, but this was not so much a new dawn as an indication their most glaring issues were not left in Japan.
Scotland will take little solace from the fact they dominated large parts of the game, because once again their lack of cutting edge saw a positive result slip away.
Scots abrasive but Ireland back row holds firm
Scotland's pre-tournament build-up was thrown off course last Monday when news emerged of star fly-half Finn Russell's exit from the camp following a breach of team protocol.
His absence was one of the reasons the visitors began in Dublin as firm underdogs - but they clearly relished the opportunity to send a clear message to those who had written them off.
Up front, where Ireland would have expected to dominate, Scotland stood toe-to-toe with their opponents at every physical encounter.
The pack's endeavours should have yielded more points than the six they took into half-time.
Head coach Farrell will be thankful for Ireland's outstanding work at the breakdown, where they won five penalties inside their own 22 in the opening half to keep the Scots at bay.
The first turnover came after just 90 seconds as debutant Caelan Doris announced himself on the international stage.
However the 21-year-old's day was cruelly cut short following an accidental clash of heads with Adam Hastings.
He was replaced by Peter O'Mahony and he played like a man with a chip on his shoulder following his omission from the starting side.
The Munster player produced one of his most influential displays in green for years, winning another crucial turnover with Josh van der Flier on 24 minutes.
Ireland's four-point lead at the break owed largely to a few huge defensive moments and one wonderfully executed move involving Cian Healy and Conor Murray which saw Sexton charge through a gaping hole inside 10 minutes.
Scrum-half Murray's torrid afternoon
Farrell's first team selection was eagerly anticipated, with fans waiting to see how far the former defence coach would divert from the core of starters that featured regularly under his predecessor Joe Schmidt.
The biggest call to be made was at scrum-half, where Farrell resisted the excellent provincial form of John Cooney and stuck with two-time British and Irish Lion Conor Murray.
Murray's performance will only shine a brighter spotlight on that position, with the Munster man enduring a torrid afternoon before being replaced by Cooney after 60 minutes.
For years Murray, and indeed Ireland, have relied on the relentless consistency and accuracy of the scrum-half's box kicking.
On Saturday however, his kicking provided Ireland with more problems than solutions as he either kicked too long to allow Scotland to run the ball back to a broken field, or too high and short leaving Ireland scrambling to recover the situation.
After 30 minutes he found himself isolated and coughed up a penalty that would have seen Ireland relinquish the lead had Hastings not pushed his kick wide.
Just before the break Murray saw his pass picked off by Sam Johnson, prompting a desperate chase down the field.
Hogg howler keeps Ireland ahead
After extending their lead through a Sexton penalty early in the second half, Ireland soon found themselves back in defensive mode as Scotland again bulldozed their way inside the 22.
After 50 minutes they finally found a route across the tryline, making use of an overlap on the left to send Hogg in - only for the skipper to drop the ball as he went to touch down.
It was the ultimate let-off for the hosts, who could not keep possession for sufficient length of time to release the pressure valve as the game hung in the balance with 10 minutes remaining.
Trailing by seven, Scotland made one last foray forward which took them to within a metre of the line.
Having tried to find space out wide, they directed themselves back inside but Stander, who was at the heart of Ireland's defensive effort, got himself over the ball and held on to win the penalty that secured an unconvincing victory for his side.
Even then, with three minutes left, Ireland made heavy weather of seeing out the game as replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher was penalised for a wayward line-out on his own 22.
Ireland and Scotland left the Aviva Stadium knowing much more than just fine-tuning will be required over the next week if they are to avoid defeat to Wales and England respectively in their next fixtures.
Ireland: Larmour; Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton (capt), Murray; Healy, Herring, Furlong, Henderson, Ryan, Stander, Van der Flier, Doris
Replacements: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Porter, Toner, O'Mahony, Cooney, Byrne, Henshaw
Scotland: Hogg (capt); Maitland, Jones, Johnson, Kinghorn; Hastings, Price; Sutherland, Brown, Fagerson, Cummings, Gray, Ritchie, Watson, Haining
Replacements: McInally, Dell, Berghan, Toolis, Du Preez, Horne, Hutchinson, Harris
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
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