Six Nations: Sexton penalties score Ireland victory over Scotland

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Six Nations: Sexton Penalties Score Ireland Victory Over Scotland Six Nations: Sexton Penalties Score Ireland Victory Over Scotland
Ireland's CJ Stander (left) and Scotland's Huw Jones during the Guinness Six Nations match at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. Photo: PA Images.
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Ireland 27 - 24 Scotland

A faultless penalty record from Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has bestowed the side with a Six Nations win over Scotland, with just minutes to play at Murrayfield.

Ireland began on the front foot and, following heavy pressure, went 3-0 ahead through a Sexton penalty.

Sexton converted a simple kick in front of the posts inside four minutes after Scotland’s defence stood strong to deny the visitors an early try.

Andy Farrell’s side capitalised further on their early dominance courtesy of an eighth-minute try from Robbie Henshaw.

Sexton’s clever cross-field kick exposed Scotland’s backline and, after Earls challenged Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris for the bouncing ball, Henshaw followed up for a simple finish.

Sexton’s conversion struck the right upright, before a Finn Russell penalty reduced the hosts’ deficit to 8-3.

Short-lived lead

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Scotland moved 10-8 ahead following an unconventional try from Russell.

Hogg charged down Garry Ringrose’s attempted clearance and dribbled forward before Russell kicked the ball over the try line to dot down.

After the television match official confirmed Hogg had not knocked on in the process, Russell converted his own score to give the Scots the lead for the first time.

However, it was quickly wiped out as Sexton put Ireland 11-10 in front with his second penalty of the afternoon.

Fly-half Russell squandered a penalty to restore Scotland’s advantage before Sexton made no mistake at the other end just before the half-time whistle.

The successful kick gave Ireland a 14-10 lead at the end of a topsy-turvy first half packed with errors from both sides.

Second period

Ireland flanker Tadhg Beirne powered over the line nine minutes into the second period to give the visitors breathing space.

French referee Romain Poite was in amongst the host of bodies to confirm Beirne had grounded the ball, with Sexton’s conversion and a subsequent penalty moving the scoreboard to 24-10.

Scotland put themselves back in contention after replacement Huw Jones made an instant impact by capitalising on some slack Irish defending to claim his 11th international try.

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James Lowe and Hugo Keenan were culpable of ineffectual tackles, allowing Jones – who had been on the pitch for only three minutes – to burst clear and finish.

Hogg’s conversion cut Ireland’s lead to 24-17 with around 20 minutes to play.

Grandstand finish

Scotland set up a grandstand finish by levelling at 24-24 with six minutes remaining.

Hamish Watson powered his way over to touch down at the end of relentless Scottish pressure, before Hogg added the extras.

However, parity was short-lived as Sexton continued his 100 per cent penalty record to give Ireland a 27-24 advantage with three minutes to play.

The team arrived at Murrayfield with only pride at stake having lost to Wales and France, prior to a routine victory over Italy a fortnight ago.

CJ Stander won his 50th cap for the visitors, while front-row pair Cian Healy and Rob Herring and wing Keith Earls were recalled following the win in Rome.

Scotland returned to Six Nations action for the first time in a month seeking to keep alive their title hopes.

Gregor Townsend’s men, whose round-three clash with France was postponed following a coronavirus outbreak in the opposition camp, must beat the Irish for the first time since 2017 to remain in contention.

Prop WP Nel was handed his first international start since the 2019 World Cup as part of four changes from the 25-24 defeat to Wales on February 13th, replacing the suspended Zander Fagerson.

Team

Andy Farrell has retained Jamison Gibson-Park at nine, with the fit-again Conor Murray among the replacements. Rob Herring also replaces Rónan Kelleher at hooker, with Cian Healy and Keith Earls bringing some extra experience to the starting XV.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan; Tadhg Beirne, Will Connors, CJ Stander. Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Billy Burns, Jordan Larmour.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, WP Nel; Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson. Replacements: David Cherry, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Nick Haining, Scott Steele, Huw Jones, Darcy Graham.

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