Scotland v Ireland, RBS 6 Nations, 24 February 2013

Scotland managed to come away with a win in front of 67,006 spectators that, to be honest, they really shouldn’t have had. Post match comment on the radio described it as a ‘Quasimodo Win’ – ugly, but very welcome!

 

Ireland owned the first half. With almost 70 percent of possession and territory, the men in green must have been scratching their heads as to why they were only 3-0 up at half time. Several close in assaults on the Scottish line, as well as a man advantage when Ryan Grant was yellow-carded, couldn’t help the visitors into a lead. It wasn’t until 5 minutes before half time that debut stand-off, Paddy Jackson, managed to get a penalty over the sticks for those three points. All-in-all it was a relieved home crowd that cheered the players off the pitch when referee Wayne Barnes blew up for half time.

 

Three minutes of the second half was all it took the Irish to come up with the expected – and deserved – five-pointer. Getting the ball back from a Scottish upfield kick, play was quickly worked up to the 22, where the forwards combined with the backs to swing the play from one side and back, which left a simple pass out to Craig Gilroy who dived over between two defenders for the touch down. Jackson then missed yet another kick to keep the score at a reasonable 8-0 to Ireland.

From this point the home side seemed to grow in confidence and went on the offensive. Driving Ireland back into their own 22 and keeping them there, it was Scotland’s turn to take the initiative. Penalties from Greg Laidlaw (pictured with No. 4) at 52, 59, 63 and 73 minutes got the Scot’s noses in front at 12-8 and with five minutes to go, what seemd like a dream at the start of the match was becoming a reality. Could the team hold on for their first back-to-back wins since 2001? History will show that they did, but it wasn’t for the want of trying! Letting the Irish back into the game with seconds to go, the visitors won a penalty from a collapsed five-metre scrum and choose to run the ball Hammering at the line with the pack, then swinging the ball out to the left, where debut centre, Luke Marshall dropped the ball and then gave away a penalty for holding on to compound a miserable day for the new boys. Barnes consulted his watch, blew up for full time and Murrayfield erupted. 12-8 to the unfancied Scottish team, who now, inexpicably, have a mathematical chance of the championship!

So, can the turn around in fortunes be solely down to Scott Johnson and his team. It’s likely. The players are mostly the same, the backroom staff are mostly the same and the time given over to International training is the same as it all was back in November. What seems to have changed is the overall ambience around the team. Peter Wright, the former Scottish front rower, said in the post-match radio analysis that the players are all going around with big grins in their faces as they have no idea what Johnson is going to do or say from one minute to the next and, so far, he seems to be keeping at bay the corporate approach that managers in the past may have had. Will it continue if he gets the permanent post? Who knows. We can but hope.

Report and Photos – John Preece

Web – www.photoboxgallery.com/jlp-photography

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