By Simon Lewis in Murrayfield.
Rory Best and Joe Schmidt blamed an awful first half that saw sluggish Ireland carved apart by Scotland on the way to an opening RBS 6 Nations defeat on Saturday.
Ireland, late to the ground after being delayed in Edinburgh traffic were just as tardy on the pitch as Stuart Hogg scored two early tries to rock the pre-match favourites. The Scots, without an opening-round win in 10 years, were 21-8 up by half-time but a defiant Ireland comeback after the interval saw Best's side take the lead at 22-21 with 15 minutes to go. Yet they let victory slip, Greig Laidlaw nailing two late penalties to send a sold-out Murrayfield into raptures.
For captain Best it was a defeat of Ireland's own making.
“I think the first half was hugely frustrating because basically almost everything we talked about doing we didn’t do,” Ireland's skipper said.
“We got narrow in defence, we weren’t physical, and we knew they’d come at us. We knew we needed to get front-foot ball and especially the way the team was set up they'd come hard at the breakdown, so we had to be accurate, get or ball carriers over the gain line. But we didn’t do any of that. I suppose the only good thing was that at half time we said we hadn’t done any of that so if we started to do that we'd find way our back into the game and that was the case.
“It was hugely frustrating the way we started that game. To let a player like Finn Russell have plenty of time at out-half to pull the strings, to take a couple of steps and throw 20/30-metre passes to guys like Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour on the wings, you're always going to struggle.
“For us, especially as forwards, we weren’t able to get our spacings right, get off the line, it's very frustrating.”
Joe Schmidt said Ireland had guilt-edge chances to win the game: "It's particularly tough to take." pic.twitter.com/WFN6Bk03p8— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) February 4, 2017
Head coach Schmidt was equally disappointed by Ireland's slow start, although he refused to blame the late arrival at Murrayfield on the performance.
“I think we arrived about 15 minutes late to the stadium and we were late for most things all first half,” he said. “We were sluggish. I think we got some really good field position and didn’t convert and that was frustrating. At the same time, I felt they probably got too much room to move.We were sluggish to close that space down and missed a few tackles.”
Ireland now must travel to Rome next weekend to take on Conor O'Shea's Italy with only a losing bonus point on the board as they seek to get their Championship title bid back on track.
“It's obviously far from ideal, but it was always potentially a reality coming here,” Schmidt said.
“As frustrating as it is, we have to take it on the chin. The Championship now looks like a very tough Championship to win, but we know we're not out of it, we did pick up that bonus point, and we've just got to try to go to Italy and make sure we have five or six points from the first two games and try to get some momentum into the back half of the Championship.”