By Philip James
Scotland 12-8 Ireland
Greig Laidlaw kicked all of Scotland’s points while Paddy Jackson missed three kicks at goal as Ireland wasted chance after chance at Murrayfield.
The win gave Scotland their first back to back victories in the RBS 6 Nations since 2001, while Ireland slipped to their second consecutive loss.
Ireland were without Jonathan Sexton and Mike McCarthy for the match while Gordon D’Arcy and Simon Zebo, who excelled in their opening win over Wales, have been ruled out for the tournament.
While against England it was the vastly experienced Ronan O’Gara who replaced Sexton and led Ireland’s brief comeback, for this match head coach Declan Kidney played Ulster’s uncapped Jackson at fly-half.
Ireland dominated the first half, enjoying 75% possession but were unable to turn the pressure into points, reaching half time only 3-0 up.
In the seventh minute Keith Earls had come close, stopped only five metres short of the Scotland try line after a beautiful sweeping move.
After several pick and drives, Ireland forced a penalty but instead of taking an easy kick at goal, they chose to kick for a lineout which they subsequently lost.
If that missed opportunity was a sign of things to come, so was debutant Jackson’s missed kick at the posts from wide right ten minutes later.
Earls came close again on 25 minutes with a splendid break-away run but declined the pass to Brian O’Driscoll who was on his shoulder, and the winger was forced into touch five metres short.
It was a sign of Ireland’s frustration at their own profligacy that O’Driscoll voiced his feelings to his number 11 on the decision to go it alone.
With only five first-half minutes left Jackson scored with an easy kick and when Craig Gilroy spun over for the try less than five minutes into the second half it seemed Ireland would not made to regret the missed chances.
However Jackson’s first international points had not put him at ease and he missed the conversion keeping it 8-0.
By the time Laidlaw’s penalty put Scotland on the board on 51 minutes, 71% of the play had been in their own half, but the comeback was on.
The Scottish penalty and points had come from Jackson’s kick missing touch and immediately after the restart he missed another penalty.
Finally some Scottish pressure yielded Irish mistakes and two Laidlaw penalties four minutes apart put Scott Johnson’s men into the lead with 17 minutes remaining, much to the disbelief of everyone who was watching.
O’Gara was introduced moments later in an bid to rescue the game but instead his terrible cross-kick put his side in deep trouble and resulted in a further Scottish penalty and three points with six minutes left.
With Ireland now needing a try, they camped themselves inside the opposition twenty-two but Scotland’s defence held out for one of the most bizarre and surprising 6 Nations results in recent memory.
Even Johnson, Scotland’s head coach could hardly believe the result, saying: “I’ve got to be honest, that was not a game we should have won.
“But we showed great spirit and great heart – and I love a team which shows great spirit and great heart.”
The Irish camp will take a long hard look at themselves now, and sit down to decide how they can rescue the rest of their tournament and, for some of the players, their chances of a place on the upcoming Lions tour.