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Ireland 26 Scotland 5: More rank indiscipline from Scotland as their poor Six Nations ends on a low in Dublin

Stuart Hogg leads the change for Scotland in Dublin.
Stuart Hogg leads the change for Scotland in Dublin.

Relentless Ireland won as expected in Dublin, but with a sizeable assist from a frantic and indisciplined performance from a clearly demoralised Scotland.

Too many penalties and errors have plagued Scotland throughout this Six Nations and although they will finish fourth – the same as in 2021 – this was a very different and totally unsatisfactory campaign.

The defiance one hoped to see on a perfect day at the Aviva Stadium – after the events of earlier this week in particular with senior players disciplined for going out to a bar – was sometimes there. But so was indiscipline on the field, a microcosm of Scotland’s season.

The worst of a bad campaign

The Scots were already the most penalised side in the championship and this was the worst of a bad campaign. Ireland, as has become common in these meetings, had all the possession and territory they needed as a result.

Had they kicked goals instead of going for the corner at every opportunity, the margin would have been far greater. But it was decisive enough.

Scotland’s experiment of starting Blair Kinghorn at 10 was not a resounding success. He struggled to make an impact, was caught in possession and threw a few wayward passes.

Scotland had more linebreaks in the first ten minutes than they had in the first three games, but they didn’t capitalise and Ireland slowly turned the screw.

Scottish hopes rose with early breaks for Darcy Graham and Ali Price and one brilliant break by Pierre Schoeman, but the secondary moves broke down as Ireland regrouped.

Ireland slowly started to gain ascendancy with the help of Scottish errors – two fumbles and two silly penalties under the high ball in the Irish 22. Scramble defence from Hogg and Rory Darge held them at bay until another penalty had the Scots retreating.

Ireland break through after early Scots breaks

Ireland’s lineout drive game was as effective as ever and Dan Sheehan went over for the opening try, Sexton converting.

Darge’s turnover close to his own line stopped another Ireland drive, but they kept coming. Sheehan was stopped but the Irish forwards battered there way through for Healy’s try.

Scotland had a majority of possession but not territory, although they fought their way into the game off Darge pinching ball close to the Irish 22.

They went through 12 phases denting the Irish defence before Schoeman dummied and reached out for the try, although Kinghorn’s conversion was a bad miss.

Once again Ireland declined the posts from a penalty right after the restart, but Gilchrist stymied the maul this time and the Scots got to the break at 14-5 down.

Six penalties against in the first half was par for Scotland’s undisciplined campaign, but they continued in the second half to ramp up the pressure.

Huge missed opportunity to draw Scots close

On one breakout Scotland should have drawn closer when Chris Harris’ kick through was hacked on and gathered by the captain. But Hogg opted to go himself with support runners inside, and Hugo Keenan drove him into touch.

There followed three penalties against Scotland in quick succession, and Ireland had a foothold in the Scottish 22.

They kept kicking penalties to the corner and for a while the Scots repelled them bravely and desperately. But inevitably the green wave went through their phases in their usual style and Josh van der Flier scored, Sexton converting.

That finally roused Scotland, and brought Finn Russell on to the field. But their play was still too frenetic and the errors continued.

Every late opportunity floundered on errors of execution or judgement. Replacement scrum-half Ben White was yellow carded for an intentional knock-on to round off the dire penalty count.

Veteran Irish 9 Conor Murray finally forced his way over for the bonus point score that Ireland ultimately deserved.

Teams

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Gary Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Jonny Sexton, Jamison Gibson Parks; Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Byrne, Iain Henderson,  Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Rob Herring (for Sheehan 63), Dave Kilcoyne (for Healy 52), Finlay Bealham (for Furlong 68), Kieran Treadwell (for Henderson 63), Peter O’Mahony (for Conan 52), Conor Murray (for Gibson Park 66), Joey Carbery (for Keenan 74, Robbie Henshaw (for Aki 56).

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

Replacements: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors for Turner 52), Allan Dell (London Irish for Schoeman 74), WP Nel (Edinburgh for Z Fagerson 55), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs for Gilchrist 52), Josh Bayliss (Bath for M Fagerson 63), Ben White (London Irish for Price 61), Finn Russell (Racing 92 for Harris 66), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh for Johnson 61).

Ref: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

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