For the eighth consecutive year, Scotland fell at the first hurdle in the 6 Nations – this time going down 28-6 to Ireland in Dublin and it could easily have been more.
You have to go back 16 years to find the last time they beat Ireland at Lansdowne Road, long before the new Aviva Stadium was built there.
The first half wasn’t bad. Scotland were trailing 6-3 and very much in the game, having put plenty of good pieces of play together and winning territory and possession stats.
Greig Laidlaw landed a penalty after striking the upright with his first attempt early on and David Denton, one of the few in blue who came out of this game with credit, was inches from scoring a try.
Once again we struggled at the line outs – to be fair, so did Ireland – but after creating chances and playing the game in the right parts of the pitch, we couldn’t break down the Irish defence.
A kickable penalty was turned down and wasted. Coughing up possession like that was criminal.
Jonathan Sexton’s break on 35 minutes should never have happened. Poor tackling gave him acres of space, but his pass to Jamie Heaslip was superb.
The Irish skipper should have scored in the corner, but Stuart Hogg got back to slow him down while Max Evans saved the try.
Conceding a late try before the break, therefore, when Andrew Trimble ghosted in to finish off a wide passing move, was a body blow. We never recovered.
Ireland’s fire was ignited in the second half and Scotland had no answer.
Another Laidlaw penalty closed the gap, but when Ross Ford lost a scrum on Scotland’s put-in, Ireland took advantage and Heaslip scored from the resulting heel against the head.
Jonathan Sexton kept the scoreboard ticking over while Scotland began to fall off tackles. Rob Kearney’s try should never have been scored. Five Scottish defenders couldn’t deal with his break and he couldn’t believe it when he scored near the posts to make the game safe for the Irish. Right at the end David Kearney almost snatched a fourth try, but the cross-kick hit the touch-in-goal line before rebounding into Kearney’s arms.
So no Triple Crown or Grand Slam, and we’ve still got five games to play!
We can still win the Championship, of course, but on this showing I wish you luck if you put money on Scotland doing that, and yet we all know Scotland are at their most dangerous when they are written off, and England are up next.
I will be very surprised if England win by a canter – in fact it could be very close.