Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt itching to prove his point against Scotland

Ireland forward CJ Stander carries the ball against Scotland in 2016 Ireland won 35-25 on Scotland's last visit and are undefeated in their last 13 home Six Nations games
Andrew Cummings | 11 March, 2018, 01:29

"At times when we were under pressure today and they were trying to play chaotic rugby, we were able to get a breath back and get control through the spine of our team".

"It was a great performance for France".

Sexton, who converted all four of Ireland's tries, said it was a huge achievement given serious injuries ruled out several key players during the campaign suc as flanker Josh van der Flier and centres Robbie Henshaw and Chris Farrell.

Even if Ireland were to seal a third title in five years with a week to play, Schmidt's side only have eyes for one prize now - a first Grand Slam in nine years.

Ireland punted an eminently kickable penalty to the corner, only to come away with no reward for that early enterprise.

Their 28-8 win came courtesy of two tries in each half, man of the moment Stockdale bagging a brace before the turn and the job being completed when Conor Murray and then Sean Cronin crossed the whitewash.

The Six Nations has reached boiling point after three rounds of action and has left Ireland in pole position undefeated at the top of the championship and with a Grand Slam beckoning.

"It's been in the back of our minds and it's something you always dream of", Murray said.

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England have previously struggled to lose under Jones; failing to lose any more than single one game.

Scotland drew first blood in Dublin as Greig Laidlaw kicked them into a 3-0 lead, but it was the hosts who would edge a scrappy opening half.

Scotland managed to get hands on the ball and looked threatening until Peter Horne threw a wayward pass between center partner Huw Jones and Stuart Hogg straight to Stockdale. A simple pass would have resulted in a Hogg try but Jones made a mess of it and the chance went begging.

Blair Kinghorn's try did narrow the lead to 21-8 with a well-worked try in the 51st minute, but Ireland were simply more clinical and there was a sense of elation when a lineout move in the corner resulted in Cronin, nearly on his knees, going over.

Asked again about Warren Gatland's "ball-in-play" jibe - the suggestion from the Wales head coach following his team's 37-27 defeat in Dublin a fortnight ago that Wales tended to win games against Ireland whenever the ball was in play for more than 44 minutes, whereas Ireland tended to win whenever ball-in-play time dipped below 37 minutes - Schmidt had an answer prepared.

"Have they earned it?"

"I think there were a couple of players who worked incredibly hard. This Irish team won't be happy unless they do that". They have fought out incredibly tough finishes. "They caught us at the start of the game and they caught us when we took the lead again".

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