Tag Archives: spoon

Five things Wales must work on to improve

Humbled Wales need to correct these five fatal flaws and save the autumn series

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UPDATED:

22:52 GMT, 11 November 2012

Eleven years to the day since Rob Howley lost to Argentina at the Millennium Stadium as a player, his side were humbled by the same margin in a pitiful 12-26 defeat.

Wales have failed to win the opening Test of their autumn campaign for 12 years, and the much-vaunted Grand Slam glory has been followed by four consecutive Test match losses (excluding one forgettable run-out against the Barbarians). So, what is going wrong

Floored: Centre Jamie Roberts is treated for concussion

Floored: Centre Jamie Roberts is treated for concussion

GET A GRIP

Argentina put Wales in a headlock and never let go. The hosts are serial slow starters and need to impose their game plan from kick-off, not let their opponents dictate play.

Fumble: Leigh Halfpenny spills a high ball under pressure from Juan Manuel Leguizamon

Fumble: Leigh Halfpenny spills a high ball under pressure from Juan Manuel Leguizamon

Full back Leigh Halfpenny fumbled an awkward ball in the first minute and it set the tone. As Argentina coach Santiago Phelan put it: ‘We took the initiative in the first 20 minutes. The intensity of the game was very high but in the Rugby Championship we learned how to play at this kind of intensity and velocity.’

That the wooden spoon collectors of the Rugby Championship should beat the Grand Slam champions of Europe tells us the north-south divide remains. Asked how the competitions compare, Pumas captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe put it simply: ‘The difference We’re playing against the first, second and third best teams in the world.’

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Prop Gethin Jenkins was brutally honest. ‘It’s back to the drawing board,’ he said.

‘We’ve got to really look at ourselves. We played into their hands by trying to play too much rugby in our own territory.’

Wales are guilty of trying too hard and thinking about the next phase without properly executing the current one.

Honest assessment: Wales' prop Gethin Jenkins did not hold back with his views after the game

Honest assessment: Wales' prop Gethin Jenkins did not hold back with his views after the game

‘Thinking Clearly Under Pressure’ was a mantra of Sir Clive Woodward’s England side and Wales need a dose of it. Losing centre Jamie Roberts so early with concussion — after a nasty clash of heads with centre Gonzalo Tiesi — left them without their go-to guy.

LIONS WATCH

Leigh Halfpenny’s kicking is as flawless as ever — and he can jump a foot higher than rivals who are a foot taller in any aerial battle — but Wales were so flat no-one enhanced his reputation. Jamie Roberts’ importance was proved in his absence. Sam Warburton must show he can pull his team together when under the cosh.

The centre provides momentum to the side, particularly off the first phase, and without him stand-in coach Howley admitted Wales were one-paced.

There was no dynamism and no precision in their play. On more than one occasion, the flying giants on the flanks had to slow down so as not to get in front of team-mates during their lethargic attacks. Wales love the word momentum, but you must pick up speed first.

FRESHNESS OVER FITNESS

For all the flogging punishment suffered at their training camp in Poland, Wales lost the second half 20-3. They looked sluggish and half a step behind, lacking their trademark zip.

Thirty training sessions in seven days is impressive, but if that doesn’t translate into physical superiority on the pitch then it is just unnecessary torture. Jenkins admitted: ‘I don’t know whether they tired us out in the final 35 minutes, but they upped the tempo and we couldn’t deal with it.’

Putting in the preparation: Jonathan Davies comes out of the cryotherapy chamber in Poland where Wales went of a training camp

Putting in the preparation: Jonathan Davies comes out of the cryotherapy chamber in Poland where Wales went of a training camp

After the final whistle, Wales headed for their cryotherapy sauna in a converted police van in the car park. Argentina had a cold shower and a crate of Bulmers delivered to their changing room.

POWER OF THREES

Wales have lost three key positions in their 3, 6 and 12. Tighthead prop Adam Jones and blindside flanker Dan Lydiate are out for the autumn, and the concussion suffered by centre Roberts will be assessed on Monday. If it is deemed severe then the new IRB regulations could see him sit out the rest of the autumn.

Telling it like it is: Shaun Edwards gave an honest assessment

Telling it like it is: Shaun Edwards gave an honest assessment

Those three positions are vital for an attacking platform — Jones at the scrum, Lydiate at the breakdown and Roberts providing the go-forward off the first phase.

Defensive coach Shaun Edwards pulled no punches afterwards: ‘It was obvious there is a disparity between our first-choice 15 and the players who have got those positions now.’ It gets worse with lock Alun Wyn Jones out for the series with a nasty shoulder injury.

LOOMING LION

Howley is an impressive figure in training — for both his intelligence as a coach and his rapport with the players — but Warren Gatland still looms in the shadows. The Lions head coach was in Dublin on Saturday watching Ireland, but is he the missing link on matchday

Intelligent: Rob Howley is an impressive man

Intelligent: Rob Howley is an impressive man

Wales needed the proverbial rocket at half-time, instead they showed no real change after the break. Gatland returns for the final two games against New Zealand and Australia and his effect on the side will be intriguing. Next up for Wales is their bogey team Samoa at their bogey time — the dreaded Friday night slot — after only a six-day turnaround.

Lose that and Wales are staring down the barrel of a winless autumn. They haven’t beaten New Zealand since 1953 and are on a seven-match losing run against Australia. As hooker Richard Hibbard put it: ‘It just gets more and more physical with the hard-hitters to come.’

Wales whippersnapper Harry Robinson getting used to holding the wooden spoon

Wales whippersnapper Robinson getting used to holding the wooden spoon

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UPDATED:

21:37 GMT, 11 June 2012

As a man who can run the 100 metres in the blink of an eye, Harry Robinson is not used to the wooden spoon. But being the youngest member of a Welsh touring party comes with its traditions and hauling around a two-foot piece of wood is one of them.

The 19-year-old winger, who made a scoring debut against the Barbarians in Cardiff 10 days ago, had not even escaped baggage claim in Australia before his first knock-on.

‘I dropped it on the first day I had it,’ he said of the love spoon. ‘I had it on the top of my bag when I was wheeling it through the airport and it just slid off. One of the rings broke off so I think I’ll be getting a few fines for that. It was a terrible start but it hasn’t left my sight since. It’s locked away in my room, in the safe.

On the scoresheet: Harry Robinson goes over against the Barbarians

On the scoresheet: Harry Robinson goes over against the Barbarians

‘George (North) said it was stolen from him last year at the World Cup and he was missing it for three days. He said to keep your eyes glued on it. I didn’t want to ask how much he was fined, just in case!

‘I’ve been told the heritage about the spoon. They said I’ll probably have to give a speech or something at some point on this tour so I’m dreading that. But it’s got to be done!’

Robinson’s more pressing priority is to inflict damage of an intentional kind against the ACT Brumbies in Canberra this morning. After Wales’ defeat in the first Test against the Wallabies, this midweek audition suddenly bears a far greater significance for the starting XV who will be looking to impress ahead of selection decisions for the second Test in Melbourne.

When Wales faced the Brumbies on tour in 1996, the hosts inflicted what was at the time the second heaviest defeat in Wales’ history — a 69-30 thrashing. Rob Howley remembers it only too well. He scored two tries that night against a star-studded team but in reply Joe Roff scored four of the home side’s 10.

THE LOVE SPOON

Love spoons are said to represent the ‘heart and soul’ of Wales. They
were carved by men and given to women as early as the 17th Century. The
idea to bring one on tour was introduced by head coach Steve Hansen in
2003 and the three World Cup spoon bearers have been Huw Bennett (2003),
Alun-Wyn Jones (2007) and George North (2011). It depicts a dagger and
includes national symbols of Wales in a harp, dragon, daffodil and the
Prince of Wales’ feathers.

This year, the Brumbies have picked an inexperienced side who tend to sacrifice possession for territory by hoofing the ball and Robinson is hoping to pounce. But although he scored against Shane Williams at the Millennium Stadium on his debut, he realises rugby Down Under is a whole new experience.

‘We saw on Saturday the intensity the southern hemisphere teams play at,’ he said. ‘It’s a different level, they step up the game from the northern hemisphere. But we know what’s coming. We’ve done the analysis.

‘Anything in their half they don’t really like to play with, so as a back three we sat down for 15 minutes and talked about how we’re going to attack back and keep our wits about us.

‘Liam (Williams) is a great runner with the ball and Brewy’s (Aled Brew) is a powerful guy as well so we’ll look to use them kicking the ball to us as an advantage.’

Before Howley called up Robinson for the senior tour, the graduate from Pentrych RFC was packing his bags for another crack at the Junior World Cup in South Africa. On the day the senior side were ambushed by the Wallabies in Brisbane, his old team-mates beat the Baby Blacks, New Zealand’s Under 20 side who had never lost a match in the four-year history of the tournament.

‘I watched that game and I was a little bit gutted I wasn’t there because I wanted to celebrate with the boys,’ he said. ‘I welled up seeing them all celebrating together. I’ve been with most of them for four or five years now and that New Zealand team haven’t lost a game in four years. Just the determination, the heart and the pride they showed, it was amazing.’

Top form: Alex Cuthbert

Top form: Alex Cuthbert

Robinson is all too aware of the challenge ahead of him if he is to break into the Test team, with Alex Cuthbert and George North both in rampaging form.

HOW THEY LINE UP

ACT Brumbies: Coleman; Crawford, Kuridrani, Smith, Sitauti, Holmes,
Prior; Murphy, Hegarty, Sio, Power, Hand, Kimlin, Vaea, Fainga’a.
Substitutes: Siliva, Pradaud, Sigg, Auelua, Mokoputo, Cox, Mogg.

Wales:
Liam Williams; Robinson, Bishop, Beck, Brew; Hook, Webb; James,
Hibbard, Jones, AW Jones (capt), Charteris, Turnbull, Tipuric, Shingler.
Substitutes: Owens, Gill, Evans, Delve, Lloyd Williams, Priestland, Cuthbert.

KO: 10.30am, Canberra Stadium.

Referee: Ian Smith (Aus).

‘I’ve got my work cut out trying to get that jersey,’ he said. ‘It’s a really competitive position. Cuthbert’s only come through this season and he’s an astonishing player.

He’s 6ft 4in, 105 kilos and still that fast — a real force to be reckoned with. George is the same, a massive beast.

‘Even though he was only on for half an hour on Saturday, the impact that he made spinning out of and breaking tackles, if he was on the whole game who knows what could have happened.

‘Even guys not in the squad yet, Eli Walker coming through for the 20s, he’s a quality player. George is 20, Cuthbert’s 22, I’m 19, Eli’s 20. It’s a really competitive position.’

SIX NATIONS 2012: England prepare for final Six Nations clash

It's time to finish the job! England prepare for final Six Nations clash

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 16 March 2012

There will be a grand and fervent sense of occasion at Twickenham on Saturday, but that will be surpassed by an overwhelming sense of confusion, on the basis that no-one is quite sure what the occasion is.

What is beyond doubt is that a packed HQ will stage an RBS Six Nations finale of intriguing potential and an opportunity for the English rugby public to acclaim the team who went to Paris last Sunday and overturned France.

It is also clear that the title will remain out of reach, whatever the outcome – such is Wales’s points-difference advantage. But beyond that, there lies a chasm of uncertainty, not just for the spectators but for the protagonists too, or at least those representing the host nation.

This could be fond farewell to a team and a regime – an emotional send-off for Stuart Lancaster and the players he and his assistants, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell, have moulded into a raw but effective Test side in less than two months. With the appointment of a new long-term England head coach likely to be made in the coming fortnight, this might be a last outing together for the squad and back-room staff before further upheaval.

On a high: Lancaster oversees training

On a high: Lancaster oversees training

HOW IT COULD ALL SHAPE UP

AT THE TOP

If Wales beat France they take the Grand Slam, if they draw they win the Six Nations, but if they lose then they will have to watch events at Twickenham with a nervous eye. If Wales lose and England win – and there is a 38-point swing between the teams – then England are champions…

AT THE BOTTOM

Scotland versus Italy is a straight shootout – the loser picks up the wooden spoon. If it’s a draw, Scotland stay fifth.

TV GUIDE: Italy v Scotland, BBC1 12.10pm
Wales v France, BBC1 2.30pm
England v Ireland, BBC1 4.45pm

If Lancaster is considered too much of a risk and the RFU opt to opt for Nick Mallett, this will ultimately go down as the final instalment of a fleeting but profound salvage operation.

Yet it may be an opportunity for the hordes in the stands to sway the union’s new chief executive, Ian Ritchie, his board and his advisers, with a further indication of the public backing for the interim operation. If the support is as raucous as it was for the encounter with Wales three weeks ago, the kingmakers will be left in no doubt about the view of the people.

In the aftermath of the win against France, Lancaster is riding a wave of popular backing but he will be desperate to end this campaign on a high, as another positive entry on the CV before next week’s formal interview, or as a glorious sign-off from the top job, if that’s what this occasion turns out to be.

As was the case last weekend on the other side of the Channel, the backdrop of the head-coach hunt continued to dominate the agenda in the run-up to this game. Lancaster, Farrell and Rowntree have all had to demonstrate their side-step – no mean feat for the latter, an ex-prop – in the face of relentless enquiries about their hopes and their fears.

Rowntree conceded that the situation is ‘beyond strange’ and that is certainly true. On Saturday night they could all be feted for another momentous triumph, but in a week’s time their involvement with the national team may be in the past tense.

Final preparations: England work through a scrum routine at Twickenham

Final preparations: England work through a scrum routine at Twickenham

Yet there is more to Saturday’s showdown than future employment prospects. There is an extended period of Irish dominance in this fixture which England will be hell-bent on bringing to an abrupt end. Since the 2003 World Cup success, they have lost seven of their eight championship matches against these opponents and that appallingly one-sided record will doubtless serve as motivation. Fresh in English minds will be the 24-8 loss in Dublin last March which shattered their hopes of a Grand Slam under Martin Johnson.

Saturday’s Ireland XV contains 12 survivors – if that is the right word – from that crushing result, while there are just five men left in England’s starting line-up who began that game at the Aviva Stadium. The contrast perfectly illustrates the relative stability and experience in the visiting ranks, which Lancaster does not have at his disposal, partly by design. But what he does have is the energy and vigour of so many tyros and newcomers, from Owen Farrell at fly-half and No 8 Ben Morgan to the midfield colossus, Manu Tuilagi and the tempo-driving Lee Dickson at scrum-half.

On their last visit to Twickenham two years ago, Ireland snatched a win at the death courtesy of wing Tommy Bowe’s second try of the day and the Ulsterman is one touchdown short of the championship record of six tries jointly held by Chris Ashton, Shane Williams and Will Greenwood. While his prolific form presents a grave danger to the hosts, so does the revival of Rob Kearney as a lethal, authoritative presence at full back. The Leinster No 15 is flying again as he was on the Lions tour in 2009 and his broken-field running will ensure the resilient home defence is kept on high alert despite the absence of an old nemesis, Brian O’Driscoll.

Surreal day: No-one knows what the future holds for Lancaster and his coaching team

Surreal day: No-one knows what the future holds for Lancaster and his coaching team

Ireland are also without their pack talisman, Paul O’Connell, but they have a formidable back row with far more battle honours than their opponents. Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip will provide a strong ball-carrying outlet and Stephen Ferris has the abrasive qualities to revel in an arm-wrestle contest if the rain comes down. However, the Ulster flanker has ignited a fire in the home camp by condemning England as ‘arrogant’ – a lazy stereotype which will fire Lancaster’s men to greater heights of intensity.

They will certainly expect to claim a positive return from the scrum and without O’Connell around, they might not have their line-out ransacked by the Irish jumpers this time. The emergence of Ben Morgan also provides England with a carrier of clout, as he proved so vividly in Paris.

It will be incumbent on Owen Farrell to retain his tactical kicking precision because any loose, in-field offerings, as there were against France, will provide space for Kearney and Bowe. Ireland possess such aerial prowess that the hosts would be better served keeping the ball in hand and trying to punch holes through midfield, where Brad Barritt and Tuilagi should have an edge over an out-of-sorts Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls.

On this St Patrick’s Day, England have it in them to spoil Irish festivities. Whether a narrow win would serve as a pointer towards a brighter future under Lancaster or as a last hurrah before regime change, that will only become apparent in hindsight.

ENGLAND V IRELAND.jpg

Six Nations 2012: Scotland team v Rome

Scotland recall De Luca for 'wooden spoon' decider in Rome

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UPDATED:

13:43 GMT, 14 March 2012

Centre Nick De Luca has been restored
to the starting line-up in Scotland's only change for Saturday's RBS 6
Nations 'wooden spoon' decider with Italy.

De Luca was a late withdrawal from
the 32-14 loss to Ireland last Saturday after exacerbating a hamstring
problem in the warm-up and comes in for wing Lee Jones, who suffered
severe concussion in the defeat in Dublin.

Back in: Nick De Luca of Scotland

Back in: Nick De Luca of Scotland

Max Evans, who took De Luca's place in the team at the Aviva Stadium, has taken Jones' slot on the right wing.

The only other change in personnel in the matchday 22 sees Bath back Jack Cuthbert named among the replacements.

Head coach Andy Robinson has 11 losses from 14 Six Nations matches after defeats to England, Wales, France and Ireland in the tournament thus far and must win for Scotland to avoid a seventh successive defeat for the first time since 1998.

Scotland are seeking a first win in Rome since 2006.

Robinson said: 'Nick was unfortunate to miss the game in Ireland through a hamstring problem and the challenge for him on Saturday will be to contribute as purposefully against the Italians as he did in his last game, against France.'

SCOTLAND TEAM

S Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); M Evans (Castres), N De Luca (Edinburgh), G Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), S Lamont (Scarlets); G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (capt, Edinburgh), G Cross (Edinburgh), R Gray (Glasgow Warriors), J Hamilton (Gloucester), J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), R Rennie (Edinburgh), D Denton (Edinburgh).

Replacements: S Lawson (Gloucester), E Murray (Newcastle), A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), R Vernon (Sale Sharks), C Cusiter (Glasgow Warriors), R Jackson (Glasgow Warriors), J Cuthbert (Bath).

Cuthbert, who won his solitary cap in the World Cup warm-up Test against Ireland last August, takes the place of Edinburgh's Matt Scott, who was thrust on to the bench following the injury to De Luca and made his debut after Jones was taken off.

Robinson said: 'Jack has featured regularly for Bath this season. He's strong and we know from his involvement with the squad back in the summer how much it means to him to play for Scotland.'

The pack is unchanged, with Geoff Cross retained at tighthead prop ahead of Euan Murray in an all-Edinburgh front row alongside captain and hooker Ross Ford and loosehead Allan Jacobsen.

Murray is named on the bench alongside replacement hooker Scott Lawson. Richie Gray, Scotland's try-scorer in Dublin, is to combine again with Jim Hamilton in the second row, with Alastair Kellock again on the bench.

The back-row is comprised of John Barclay, Ross Rennie and David Denton, with replacement cover coming from Richie Vernon.

Scrum-half Mike Blair and fly-half Greig Laidlaw are to combine at half-back, with Chris Cusiter and Ruaridh Jackson in reserve.

Graeme Morrison is inside De Luca in the midfield, Evans is joined by Sean Lamont and full-back Stuart Hogg in the back three.

SIX NATIONS 2012: Lee Jones to miss Scotland clash against Italy with concussion

Scotland wing Jones sidelined for Italy showdown following nasty head KO

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UPDATED:

14:04 GMT, 13 March 2012

Scotland wing Lee Jones has been ruled out of Saturday's wooden spoon decider with Italy with concussion.

The 23-year-old Edinburgh back was taken off following a sickening clash of heads with opposite number Andrew Trimble in Scotland's 32-14 loss to Ireland in Dublin last Saturday, which leaves Andy Robinson's side still seeking a first win of the RBS 6 Nations ahead of their trip to Rome.

KO: Lee Jones was knocked out after his collision with Ireland's Andrew Trimble in Dublin last weekend

KO: Lee Jones was knocked out after his collision with Ireland's Andrew Trimble in Dublin last weekend

Luke Benedict Six Nations blog

Jones, who has four caps, has been ruled out and returned home to Selkirk to recuperate, meaning there will be at least one change to Scotland's starting XV for Saturday's match in the Eternal City.

Scotland team doctor James Robson said: 'He is doing well. He will have a few days' rest and recovery and will be assessed later in the week.

'He is ruled out of Saturday's match against Italy.'

Ireland 32 Scotland 14: Jones injury compounds Robinson"s misery

Ireland 32 Scotland 14: Jones injury compounds Robinson's misery

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UPDATED:

19:23 GMT, 10 March 2012

Ireland inflicted a sixth successive
Test defeat on Scotland as the Celtic rivals served-up a five-try RBS 6
Nations thriller at the Aviva Stadium.

It was an all-too familiar scenario
for the Scots, who contributed fully to a high-octane match that gripped
a sell-out crowd but will have infuriated under-pressure coach Andy
Robinson.

Andrew Trimble of Ireland scores a try

Try time: Andrew Trimble of Ireland goes over

Robinson has now presided over two wins in 14 Six Nations games and a wooden spoon decider against Italy beckons in Rome next weekend.

Adding to Scotland's woes was the second-half departure of winger Lee Jones following a sickening clash of heads with opposite number Andrew Trimble.

The incident occurred during the 62nd minute when Ireland scrambled furiously inside their own 22, with Jones collapsing instantly from the collision before being stretchered off.

Scotland could only marvel at the clinical finishing displayed by Ireland, whose status as the championship's most dangerous side was safeguarded by another four-try haul.

Captain Rory Best scores a try

Touch down: Captain Rory Best scores a try

Assisted by some erratic defending,
Rory Best, Eoin Reddan, Andrew Trimble and Fergus McFadden crossed while
Jonathan Sexton kicked 12 points.

The opening try by Best, leading
Ireland in the injury-enforced absence of Paul O'Connell, was
particularly well-received and topped another tremendous afternoon for
the Ulster hooker.

Openside Peter O'Mahony enjoyed a
bright full debut, flanker Stephen Ferris produced a typically ferocious
shift in defence, Rob Kearney excelled once more at full-back and Keith
Earls showed flashes of brilliance at outside centre.

Scotland lock Richie Gray powers through the Ireland defence on his way to score

On the charge: Scotland lock Richie Gray powers through to score

Ireland – who were starting a Six
Nations game without either of their Lions captains, O'Connell or Brian
O'Driscoll, for the first time since 2001 – had seen their title hopes
fade with Sunday's draw with France, but have now registered
back-to-back wins at the Aviva Stadium for the first time.

The Scots will require more heroics
from lock Richie Gray and number eight David Denton, who were
magnificent today, if they are to dispatch Italy.

A high-quality try from Gray in the
37th minute inspired hope in the visitors, while three penalties from
fly-half Greig Laidlaw kept them in the hunt until Ireland pulled clear
in the final quarter.

Hold up: Cian Healey of Ireland is tackled by Richie Gray of Scotland

Hold up: Cian Healey of Ireland is tackled by Richie Gray of Scotland

Scotland showed no distress from the
loss of Nick De Luca to a hamstring injury during the warm-up – Max
Evans moved into the starting XV – during a lively start.

Released by a quickly-taken
free-kick, they probed down the left wing before winning a penalty that
Laidlaw sent between the uprights.

Gray and David Denton made robust
carries as Scotland swept from one 22 to another and once more Laidlaw
was on target to ensure their endeavour was rewarded.

John Barclay of Scotland is tackled by Keith Earls of Ireland

John Barclay of Scotland is tackled by Keith Earls of Ireland

A perfectly executed set move at an
attacking line-out enabled Ireland to take the lead, however, with man
of the match Donnacha Ryan taking and supplying O'Mahony.

O'Mahony switched back to the
blindside and fed Best, who flattened scrum-half Mike Blair and touched
down for a try converted by Sexton.

Ireland had opted for the line-out
instead of Sexton taking a shot at goal, but in the 26th minute the
Leinster fly-half chose the three points.

Once the omnipresent Best had dealt
with a chip ahead that Sean Lamont was in danger of reaching and
Scotland had launched a fruitless assault on the whitewash, Laidlaw
landed his third penalty.

Lee Jones of Scotland is knocked out in a tackle against Andrew Trimble

Lee Jones of Scotland is knocked out in a tackle against Andrew Trimble

Lee Jones of Scotland is knocked out

Ireland's response was their second
try, though there was an element of luck involved as Reddan, having
failed to distribute the ball from a ruck, was suddenly offered a sight
of the line.

Wriggling through tackles from Denton, Blair and Lamont, he scrambled over from five yards out and Sexton converted.

An action-packed game continued to
excite when Gray displayed tremendous skills to touch down, shrugging
off Bowe and Reddan before dummying Kearney to gallop over.

On the stroke of half-time Ireland
almost squandered a glorious chance when Kearney went alone instead of
using Trimble, but the ball was still recycled and the Ulster winger was
in.

The irrepressible Denton continued to
scatter Irish tacklers early in the second half, but the home side then
exploded into life.

Lightning acceleration from Keith
Earls started a passage of play that ended with Bowe being held up over
the line by Evans' try-saving tackle.

Scotland dominated possession in the
third quarter but were foiled by outstanding Irish defence and as the
match entered the final 10 minutes there was a sense their chance had
gone.

Yet Ireland still needed another
score to calm their nerves and it was delivered by Sexton, who slotted a
difficult penalty from a tight angle to secure a nine-point cushion.

Any lingering doubt over the result
was dispelled four minutes before time when McFadden touched down with
Ireland capitalising on the absence of Evans, who had been sin-binned
for a cynical tug on Earls as the centre raced for the line.