Scotland 7-22 Ireland: Andy Farrell’s side remain on for Six Nations Grand Slam after remarkable win

Mack Hansen, James Lowe, Jack Conan score tries in crucial Ireland Six Nations win over Scotland, despite losing Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher, Garry Ringrose to injury; Huw Jones scored in defeat for hosts; Johnny Sexton becomes joint-leading 6N point scorer

Last Updated: 12/03/23 5:28pm

Jack Conan scored one of two crucial second-half Ireland tries, as they belied the fact they suffered so many injuries to win in Edinburgh

Ireland are one victory away from securing the Six Nations Grand Slam after Andy Farrell’s side refused to let a series of disruptive injuries deny them against Scotland, winning 22-7 at Murrayfield.¬†

The visitors lost three of their starting forward pack inside the opening 25 minutes – No 8 Caelan Doris, hooker Dan Sheehan and second-row Iain Henderson – and then lost replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher early in the second half, leaving them scrummaging with replacement prop Cian Healy at hooker, and with flanker Josh van der Flier the lineout thrower.

Yet they regrouped to score vital second-half tries through wing James Lowe – following a wonderful piece of aerial skill from Mack Hansen – and No 8 Jack Conan, after Hansen and Scotland centre Huw Jones had traded tries in a tight and tense first half.

Ireland’s defence never waivered on the day either, repeatedly knocking Scotland back and keeping them out despite immense disarrangement to the side, and it leaves them one victory away – with England to come to Dublin next week – from adding to previous Grand Slam efforts in 1948, 2009 and 2018.

Ireland made much of the early running, and a moment of controversy followed in the sixth minute as a potential try was ruled out, but not for anything the visitors had done, rather because Scotland had taken a quick lineout within their own 22 with the wrong ball, sending it straight into the arms of Doris. Referee Luke Pearce quickly ruled out the score in a huge let off for the hosts.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend made two changes to the starting XV to take on Ireland; Lock forward Jonny Gray, back-row Jack Dempsey came in to start, with Grant Gilchrist suspended after his red card vs France and Hamish Watson dropped to the bench; Full-back Stuart Hogg started for his 100th Scotland Test cap

Key men Johnny Sexton, Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong each proved their fitness to start for Ireland, while Bundee Aki was preferred to Stuart McCloskey at inside-centre – the latter missing out on the squad altogether due to Robbie Henshaw’s return from a wrist injury on the bench. Conor Murray started at scrum-half despite Jamison Gibson-Park’s return, Dan Sheehan started over Ronan Kelleher at hooker, while Peter O’Mahony returned at blindside flanker.

Ireland continued to come forward in attack, and on 13 minutes, after a barrage of pressure within the Scotland 22, skipper Johnny Sexton chose to take the points on offer via a penalty for a 3-0 lead after the home defensive line were caught offside.

Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton opened the scoring with a penalty in the 13th minute

Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton opened the scoring with a penalty in the 13th minute

Doris – perhaps Ireland’s best player in the championship to date – soon limped off, before Scotland carved out their first threatening attack – Jones and co looking threatening, before Ireland succeed in tackling full-back Stuart Hogg into touch. The Scots did not put their heads down, though, and a minute later Jones was over for the opening try as Conor Murray was punished for not finding touch with a clearance kick.

Scotland centre Huw Jones scored the opening try of the contest

Scotland centre Huw Jones scored the opening try of the contest

Sheehan and Henderson then departed within four minutes of one another, but Ireland were dogged in maintaining their standards, producing a lovely passage of play – including a stunning Garry Ringrose pass – for Hansen to score in the corner – the energetic wing doing exceptionally well to ground the ball despite the likely illegal attentions – no-arms tackle – of the sizeable Duhan van der Merwe.

Mack Hansen scored Ireland's first try with a superb finish in the corner

Mack Hansen scored Ireland’s first try with a superb finish in the corner

Sexton missed the tricky conversion to leave Ireland a single point ahead, but Van der Flier and Lowe next combined for a vital breakdown penalty near the Ireland try-line to keep Scotland out past the half-hour after Van der Merwe had made ground in contact. Scotland skipper Jamie Ritchie and playmaker Finn Russell then turned down a potential shot for points in the final play of the half, and it proved the wrong call as the Irish tackled their opponents into touch again.

A second Kelleher overthrow early in the second half at a lineout hinted at something problematic, and the Leinsterman was next to depart, leaving Ireland scrambling for options to avoid going down to 14 men and uncontested scrums for the final half hour. Their solution was extraordinary shifts from Healy and Van der Flier out of position, though no one could have expected the two players would be able to provide Ireland with a functioning set-piece.

Despite the events, Ireland scored the critical next try as a fabulous high ball take from Hansen in the Scotland 22 under a Jamison Gibson-Park box-kick laid the platform, before Lowe finished in the opposite corner after a trademark quick Irish attack. Sexton converted beautifully from out wide too to leave Ireland more than a score ahead.

James Lowe scored Ireland's vital second try, after a flurry of disruptive injuries

James Lowe scored Ireland’s vital second try, after a flurry of disruptive injuries

Riding the crest of their own momentum, and with Van der Flier managing to provide possession through the lineout, Ireland soon had a third try through replacement Conan, with Hansen again involved as he threw a lovely miss-pass for the former to ride the challenge of Van der Merwe and ground.

Back-row forward Josh van der Flier did phenomenally well to throw consistently at the lineout for over half an hour

Back-row forward Josh van der Flier did phenomenally well to throw consistently at the lineout for over half an hour

Sexton again converted brilliantly – drawing level with compatriot Ronan O’Gara as the leading Six Nations points scorer on 557 in doing so – and though Ireland lost key centre Ringrose to a serious head injury thereafter, they looked the more threatening to score again as a magnificent late counter-attack involving Lowe, Gibson-Park and James Ryan just failed to come off when the lock knocked on in a final offload attempt.

The remaining time saw Ireland defend the Test out strongly and comfortably, securing a memorable and quite unique Six Nations victory.

What’s next?

Scotland conclude their 2023 Six Nations campaign with another home fixture as they face Italy at Murrayfield in Edinburgh next Saturday March 18 (12.30pm kick-off GMT).

Scotland’s Six Nations 2023 fixtures

Saturday, February 4 England 23-29 Scotland
Saturday, February 11 Scotland 35-7 Wales
Sunday, February 26 France 32-21 Scotland
Sunday, March 12 Scotland 7-22 Ireland
Saturday, March 18 Scotland vs Italy 12.30pm

Ireland conclude their Six Nations with a home match vs England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin next Saturday March 18 (5pm kick-off GMT).

Ireland’s Six Nations 2023 fixtures

Saturday, February 4 Wales 10-34 Ireland
Saturday, February 11 Ireland 32-19 France
Saturday, February 25 Italy 20-34 Ireland
Sunday, March 12 Scotland 7-22 Ireland
Saturday, March 18 Ireland vs England 5pm

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