Scotland claimed a well-deserved 27-22 win over Ireland in a spectacular display of running rugby at Murrayfield.
Greig Laidlaw secured his side the win after a spirited Irish fightback, with two penalties in the last ten minutes of the match.
Ireland were down 21-8 at half-time but, after they regathered, orchestrated a stunning comeback and scored some well-worked tries through Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson. Scotland looked spooked by their opposition’s rejuvenation but were able to steel themselves and retake the lead.
The win sees Scotland top the Six Nations points table with four points with two other games still to play, while Ireland walk away with one point for being within less than seven points from the winners after the new law changes.
Set-pieces were a problem for both sides throughout the game with Scotland conceding three penalties at scrum time in just the first 20 minutes, while Ireland were never confident that they would get their own ball back at the lineout.
It was a nail-biter from start to finish as both sides played free-flowing, positive rugby that saw some electric tries being scored.
Scotland started off the game in a spirited fashion as they made it clear that they had left their conservative approach to the game behind them as they spread the ball to winger Sean Maitland twice in the first seven minutes.
The Scottish scrum was not up to scratch in the early stages but their loose play was fantastic and rumbled down field through some piercing runs until they landed just before the Ireland tryline, unable to cross due to some sturdy Irish defence. Vern Cotter’s men then spread the ball wide to Stuart Hogg who dodged a tackle before scoring the first points of the game and Greig Laidlaw secured the conversion.
Ireland then hit back quickly, after a barnstorming run from Sean O’Brien which took them right to the Scotland five-metre line. The visitors were awarded a penalty and went for the line and used their position to launch a maul but couldn’t quite get over for the try-line and Scotland were awarded a scrum.
Hogg then scored his second try of the match when the home side made a break from the halfway line which saw the full-back get possession in space with Sean Maitland outside him who looked like the eventual receiver. Hogg then faked a pass to Maitland and Rob Kearney took the bait and Hogg went through to score a fantastic try. After the conversion Scotland led 14-0, 24 minutes in.
After some serious pressure from Ireland they found themselves on the Scotland five-metre line. They tried to barge over but the Scotland defence remained impregnable which forced them to send the ball wide which saw Keith Earls go over in the corner. Jackson missed the conversion.
Scotland then hit back immediately when they had a line out on the Irish five-metre line and pulled off a devilishly cheeky move which saw Alex Dunbar stand in the lineout. Ross Ford then threw short to Dunbar who accelerated quickly to score his side’s third try over the game.
With half-time looming, the bewildered Irish seemed desperate for some points, and when awarded a penalty they opted to go for poles, which Jackson knocked over.
At half-time, Scotland looked very much in control of the game as they led 21-8 after playing some electrifying running rugby, leaving the Irish completely stunned.
Ireland were clearly given a stern talking to in the dressing room as they started the second half with a new found sense of zeal. They scored the first points of the half when they pushed upfield through their forwards and after variety of different advantages given by referee Romain Poite, Henderson pushed over the line to score his side’s second try.
The scoreboard might have stopped ticking for the period after Henderson’s try but the spectacle on the field was nothing less than jaw-dropping as both teams expertly used the width of the pitch to their advantage as they spread the ball wide, each attempting to scatter their opposition’s defensive structures.
Ireland almost scored again through Earls after O’Brien made a devastating break before offloading which would eventually end with Kearney being tackled out just before making the pass to Earls.
An Irish revival was on the cards when the visitors used the ball brilliantly to confuse the Scottish defence before Jackson scored his side’s third try of the match, putting them ahead by one point after the conversion.
With ten minutes left to play Ireland looked as though they might retain their lead until a high tackle on Dunbar in the Irish 22 which lead to Scotland kicking for the line and starting a lineout maul which led to them being given a penalty which Laidlaw expertly knocked over to secure the win.
Tries: Hogg 2, Dunbar
Cons: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Laidlaw 2
Tries: Earls, Henderson, Jackson
Cons: Jackson 2
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 John Barclay, 21 Ali Price, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadgh Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Tommy Bowe
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)