Ireland extract the maximum to secure Six Nations triple crown

Munster's Conor Murray dived over for a 79th minute try off a lineout to secure the bonus point at the Aviva, Ireland's fourth of the tournament.
Ireland extract the maximum to secure Six Nations triple crown

SUPER SPIN: Ireland's Conor Murray pirouette's h way past Scotland's Rory Darge for the important fourth try at the Aviva Stadium. 

Guinness Six Nations: Ireland 26 Scotland 5

Andy Farrell's Ireland have set up a grandstand finish to the Six Nations championship by securing a bonus point and Triple Crown win over Scotland in Dublin - piling the pressure on Fabien Galthie's France to beat old rivals England later Saturday to deny the men in green the championship as well.

Munster's Conor Murray dived over for a 79th minute try off a lineout to secure the bonus point at the Aviva, Ireland's fourth of the tournament.

It was a first Triple Crown since 2018 but the French still have a first Six Nations title since their 2010 Grand Slam in their own hands, needing a victory over the English at Stade de France to seal the deal.

Regardless of the title outcome, Ireland were full value for their sixth Triple Crown of the Six Nations era, following up bonus-point victories at home to Wales in the opening round and away in England seven days ago with another on the last day of the championship.

TRY NO 3: Ireland's Josh van der Flier goes over the Scottish line.
TRY NO 3: Ireland's Josh van der Flier goes over the Scottish line.

Dan Sheehan and Cian Healy claimed first-half tries with Scotland’s Pierre Schoeman getting Scotland on the scoreboard before the interval. It was the visitors’ only score - Josh van der Flier and replacement Conor Murray added scores after half-time, the bonus point collected in the last play of the game as Ireland supporters celebrated a first trophy won on home soil since 2004.

But this was far from one-way traffic. Perhaps stirred by Italy’s famous win over Wales in Cardiff in the opening match of the day, which ended their 36-game losing streak in the championship, underdogs Scotland started well in Dublin but failed to take advantage of the lion’s share of early possession and never really troubled the Irish defence. That allowed the home side to grow into the game and once they did their superior attack was clinical where Scotland’s was not. A perfectly placed 50-22 kick from captain Johnny Sexton gave Ireland a five-metre lineout on 14 minutes and though the resulting drive from the Irish pack was held up over the line, the pressure was quick to be reapplied. A Scotland tackle off the ball saw James Lowe tap the penalty and then earn another when the defence failed to retreat the full 10 metres and Sexton’s kick to the corner led to another lineout maul, from which hooker Dan Sheehan struck for the opening try after 17 minutes, Sexton converting.

Scotland’s inaccuracies were costing them in terms of penalties conceded and Ireland scored their second on a penalty advantage as veteran loosehead prop Cian Healy added another try for the front row, ploughing over from short-range for his 10th Test try on his 116th appearance.

Sexton’s conversion put Ireland into a 14-0 lead with almost 30 minutes gone but Scotland hit back before the interval, another prop, busy loosehead Pierre Schoemann stretching out a long arm to get his side on the scoreboard. Blair Kinghorn, in at fly-half as a surprise selection ahead of the out of form Finn Russell, missed the conversion and Ireland went into half-time with a 14-5 lead.

The Scots again started well as the second half got underway and captain Stuart Hogg had a wonderful opportunity to pull his side back into the contest with Ireland’s defence stretched. The full-back broke down the right wing and had three team-mates on his inside shoulder waiting expectantly but Hogg inexplicably held on to the ball and went for try himself, only for opposing 15 Hugo Keenan to race across and tackle him into touch.

Lineout king O'Mahony wins possession out of touch.
Lineout king O'Mahony wins possession out of touch.

It proved a costly decision when Ireland actually crossed the line on 59 minutes, Josh van der Flier continuing his excellent form in the back row with a try after sustained Irish pressure, with Sexton’s conversion pushing the Irish lead out to 21-5.

A try bonus point was the next objective but credit to Scotland, they stayed in the fight and spent long stretches in the Irish half only to meet stubborn defending from Ireland. The Irish scrum was also beginning to come under pressure with both replacement front rows on the field and Scotland used a scrum penalty followed by ruck side entry from substitute hooker Rob Herring to kick to the corner and launch from a five-metre lineout on 72 minutes, only to blow their chance by going off their feet at a ruck close to the tryline.

Yet the clock was ticking down with Ireland in the wrong part of the field and their efforts to make inroads undone by handling errors. It was making for a frustrating end to the championship from an Irish point of view before one last push for the bonus point. A penalty on the Scottish 22 saw Sexton kick for the corner once again as the Fields of Athenry rang down from the stands with 78 minutes on the clock. The lineout from seven metres out and resulting maul was perfectly executed before replacement scrum-half Conor Murray broke away, passed to James Lowe and stayed on the wing’s shoulder to finish the deal with a strong leg drive to get over the line.

Scotland lost replacement scrum-half Ben White to a yellow card and Sexton missed his conversion with the last kick of the game but it had no affect on the outcome. Job done, four tries in the bag, five points on the table and a significant first piece of silverware for the Andy Farrell era, on home soil to boot.

IRELAND: H Keenan (J Carbery, 73); M Hansen, G Ringrose, B Aki (R Henshaw, 56), J Lowe; J Sexton – captain, J Gibson-Park (C Murray, 66); C Healy (D Kilcoyne, 51), D Sheehan (K Treadwell, 62), T Furlong (F Bealham, 67); T Beirne, I Henderson (R Herring, 62); C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan (P O’Mahony, 51).

SCOTLAND: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris (F Russell, 66), S Johnson (M Bennett, 61), K Steyn; B Kinghorn, A Price (B White, 61); P Schoeman (A Dell, 73), G Turner (F Brown, 51), Z Fagerson (WP Nel, 55); J Gray, G Gilchrist (S Skinner, 51); R Darge, H Watson, M Fagerson (J Bayliss, 62).

Yellow card: B White 79 

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

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