Ireland 28-6 Scotland: Lessons Learned from Six Nations Clash
Ireland shrugged off a scrappy first half to dispatch Scotland comfortably in their Six Nations opener.
Joe Schmidt’s side have a tough test next week with the visit of Wales to Dublin, but they will be better for this hit out against a Scotland team who offered little by way of a genuine threat.
The Scots face England next week, and it looks like it will be a hard slog for Scott Johnson’s men this season.
Here are the lessons from today’s game.
1. Joubert Playing by Different Scrum Rules
Twice in the first half Ireland made a dog’s breakfast of Scotland’s scrum, and twice referee Craig Joubert allowed Scotland to get away with it.
The South African official simply let play carry on as Scotland’s front row were bulldozed and their pack splintered.
In the second half, he changed his tune and started to reward the dominant green eight after they had turned one put-in over that led to Jamie Heaslip’s try.
A bit of consistency wouldn't go amiss.
Prop forwards have already had to adapt their approach now that there is no genuine hit. With the change in instruction from referee to scrum half, seeing the "Yes, nine" call disappear, they are once again coping with yet more tinkering.
Joubert's performance at scrum time has done little to suggest we are going to see a massive upsurge in quick, clean scrummaging any time soon.
2. Scotland Still Lacking Creativity
Despite flashes from Stuart Hogg, the Scots still looked blunt in attack.
They left men isolated to get turned over and ran their wide players out of space with poor lines of running and bad decision-making in terms of passing.
When they did have possession and gave it to their backs, they appeared so lacking in confidence that there seemed to be an air of acceptance that they would fail to make any inroads.
It might be time to call for Paul McKenna to give this Scottish back line some self–belief.
3. Irish Depth Looking Good
This comprehensive win was achieved without Paul O’Connell, Sean O’Brien, Gordon D’Arcy, Tommy Bowe, Keith Earls and Luke Fitzgerald.
There was a time when it could be said of Ireland that their first XV was capable of beating anyone, but they lacked a strong enough supporting cast.
Now they have a greater depth to their pool of players, with the likes of Devin Toner growing into the green jersey in the second row, Andrew Trimble rediscovering his best form on the wing and his fellow Ulstermen Luke Marshall and Chris Henry stepping up to international level and looking comfortable there.
Ireland should be in good shape come the 2015 World Cup.
4. Sexton Shakes off Club Calamity
Jonny Sexton hasn’t had the most enjoyable of times with Racing Metro.
But he looked in fine fettle back in the green of Ireland.
Sexton used the corners of the Aviva Stadium turf well, pinning Scotland down, and he slipped seamlessly into Joe Schmidt’s Leinster-based style, working his trademark wrap-around moves and distributing the ball to his runners well.
5. Ulster Influence a Good Thing
Joe Schmidt dipped heavily into the Ulster pool of players for this fixture and was repaid handsomely.
The province won every game in their Heineken Cup pool, and Schmidt rewarded their good form with starts for Rory Best, Dan Tuohy, Chris Henry, Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble.
Each player repaid their selection, Trimble with a try, Marshall with a solid display in the midfield and the three forwards with big parts played in a dominant Irish forward display.
Ireland’s success over the last decade has been built on a core from one of its three strong provincial sides, and Schmidt now has the luxury of all three looking in good nick.