Six Nations: Ireland pass Wales, England fall short
Last Updated: 22/03/15 1:28pm
Ireland have won the RBS Six Nations trophy after a 40-10 win over Scotland put them top of the table.
Earlier in the day Wales dismantled Italy 61-20, which gave Ireland the task of needing to beat Scotland by at least 21 points in order to top the table with only the England-France game remaining.
Tries from Paul O’Connell, Jared Payne and two from man-of-the-match Sean O’Brien gave Ireland a 30-point win, which meant they ended the game at the summit of the Six Nations table.
England came close to closing the gap as they beat France 55-35 at Twickenham in the final fixture of the day, but it was not enough to overhaul Ireland's lead, meaning the trophy will be displayed in Dublin for another year at least.
Ireland could not have orchestrated a better start to the game. Within four minutes captain Paul O’Connell took the ball from the base of a ruck and crashed over for the opening score which Johnny Sexton duly converted.
What followed was a period of Irish dominance which resulted in Scotland infringing, and Sexton stepped up to make it 10-0.
Greig Laidlaw drew back with a penalty but an Irish lineout ended with Sean O’Brien galloping clear to extend the Irish lead. His effort was matched by Finn Russell, which made for a 20-10 scoreline at half time.
The second half produced plenty of drama. Four minutes into the second period Sexton extended Ireland’s lead to 13 points. Ireland held onto the ball well during the period that followed, but seemed unable to punish the Scottish defence.
A lineout was then set up close to the Scottish line and a driving maul resulted. Ireland spread the ball well and a deft switch pass to Jared Payne meant the outside centre was able to cross right under the poles, giving Sexton a regulation kick to make it a 20-point lead.
Sexton then had an opportunity to extend the lead, and top the table, with a kick at goal, but by his own high standards he missed the effort badly; the ball crashing back off the right-hand upright.
Minutes later he was given another chance to further his team’s title hopes but this time missed it wide to the right.
It seemed like a nervy time for Irish players and fans, but in the 61st minute he finally bisected the poles with his third attempt and Ireland were crucially in front by enough.
It was not deemed enough, though, by Sean O’Brien in particular, who managed to avoid the efforts of two defenders as he went over for his second of the match.
Scotland had a chance to make it an interesting final four minutes when Stuart Hogg went over the line but the TMO spotted that he had knocked the ball on in the act of scoring, and as a result Ireland we able to hold onto a big lead ahead of England’s showdown with France.