Scotland hand crown to France

20th Mar 2010, 19:43

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Key man: Dan Parks

Key man: Dan Parks

France were crowned Six Nations champions just over an hour before even kicking off as Scotland upset Ireland 23-20 at Croke Park.

France were handed the Six Nations crown an hour before even running out in Paris as Scotland upset Ireland 23-20 at Croke Park on Saturday.

It was an efficient performance from the visitors, who threw the Wooden Spoon over to Italy, thanks to a structured 80 minutes that caged the Irish.

The holders were in contrast very off colour for their stadium farewell before moving back to the old Lansdowne Road, with their lineout one major reason for defeat. In all, Rory Best threw one not straight while six were stolen or overthrown.

And those errors ultimately led to a lack of ball and momentum for Ireland, who hauled off Jonathan Sexton for Ronan O'Gara on 51 minutes. It was a tough call on the youngster but the experienced Munsterman almost won it.

That word again is almost as it was to be another day in the sunshine for Dan Parks, who landed two hammer blows to Ireland at the end of each half. His one in the first was a smartly taken drop-goal, which saw Scotland go in 14-7 to the good, while a last-minute touchline penalty denied the Triple Crown and Championship-chasing Ireland even a share of the spoils.

Glasgow fly-half Parks finished the contest with an 18-point haul and the man-of-the-match award - his third in four games since returning.

Ireland had started much the brighter and looked to be following the points-chasing script on eleven minutes when Brian O'Driscoll belatedly celebrated his 100th cap of last week with a beautifully taken score following Sexton's clever loop around his centres.

But Scotland responded in clinical fashion just four minutes later. Graeme Morrison started the score off down the left wing before handing the ball over to Johnnie Beattie, who showed power and pace to cross with two Irish defenders on his back.

Then came the intelligence of Parks following Sexton's fairly simple penalty miss 40 metres out. It was Paul O'Connell who infringed at ruck-time and the ten stepped to extend the scores to 7-11 with 120 seconds to go until the break. He then struck again with a vital drop-goal in the last action of the half to leave Dublin stunned and Paris joyful.

Declan Kidney needed to lift his troops and seemed to have done so going from their effort at the turnaround. And they were soon rewarded when their go-to man Tommy Bowe struck with on 64 minutes to bring the Irish back level at 17-17 with a big finish on the cards.

It was then a scrap for territory as Parks and O'Gara traded three points before South African referee Jonathan Kaplan awarded Scotland a penalty wide on the left that the former slotted, much to the delight of himself, Andy Robinson and Gregor Townsend.

Man of the match: Johnnie Beattie was superb once again but the form of Dan Parks since being recalled for Phil Godman has been immense. He kept his cool to land the match-winning penalty from the touchline but his first-half drop was something out of the top draw.

Moment of the match: Tough to decide over Dan Parks' hammer blows at the end of each half. However, I have to go for the 79th minute effort from the touchline. Well done Scotland, you would not have deserved to be holding the Wooden Spoon.

Villain of the match: So often you can hear a pin drop at Irish provincial and also home internationals when a visiting kicker lines up a kick. Not today. That late sucker punch was greeted with plenty of hisses from the Dublin crowd.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries: O'Driscoll, Bowe
Con: Sexton, O'Gara
Pen: Sexton, O'Gara

For Scotland:
Tries: Beattie
Pen: Parks 5
Drop: Parks

Ireland: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace , 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Shane Jennings, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Robert Kearney.

Scotland: 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Max Evans, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter (capt), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Richie Gray, 19 Alan MacDonald, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Phil Godman, 22 Simon Danielli.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jérôme Garces (France)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
Assessor: Steve Hilditch (Ireland)

By Adam Kyriacou