Ireland too strong for Scotland
Ireland moved closer to the Six Nations title following a comfortable 28-8 triumph over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
In a thrilling first half, Greig Laidlaw opened the game’s account by kicking a penalty but two Jacob Stockdale tries gave the Emerald Isle an 11-point buffer at the interval.
Conor Murray extended the lead early in the second period before Blair Kinghorn gave the visitors hope going into the final half-hour.
Joe Schmidt’s men continued to control matters, though, and Sean Cronin made the game safe by barging across the whitewash from close range for the crucial bonus-point.
They will head to Twickenham with an opportunity of claiming a Grand Slam for just the third time in their history, while Scotland are now out of the title race.
The hosts began the game in the ascendency, keeping the ball impressively through the phases, but mistakes at costly times prevented them from opening the scoring.
Scottish defence in the early stages was ferocious and uncharacteristic errors crept into the Irish game. There were knock-ons aplenty and the visitors benefited by earning a penalty on the opposition 22, which Laidlaw converted.
That effort gave Gregor Townsend’s men confidence and Stuart Hogg, Kinghorn and Finn Russell all displayed some neat touches, but they proceeded to undo their good work.
The away side had created space out wide but Peter Horne threw a needless pass to give Stockdale an easy intercept try. Jonathan Sexton converted and Ireland held a 7-3 advantage after 25 minutes.
It was proving to be a pulsating contest with both teams showing creativity and physicality in abundance. However, the respective rearguards remained on top until late in the half when Schmidt’s team found a clinical edge.
Following Rob Kearney’s break, which almost ended in Murray crossing the whitewash, the hosts were awarded a scrum five metres out and Garry Ringrose combined with Bundee Aki to send Stockdale over.
Ireland duly went into the break 14-3 ahead and took that momentum into the second period, dominating the opening exchanges and pressurising the opposition 22.
A sixth Scotland infringement at the breakdown allowed the Emerald Isle to build another attack and Murray displayed his sniping instincts to touch down from close range.
Similar to their Wales performance, Townsend’s team could have folded but they showed commendable spirit to come back into the encounter via a well-worked score for Kinghorn.
However, the Scots were not quite at Ireland’s level, failing to take the chances that came their way and also conceding far too many penalties.
Once such error gave Sexton a chance to extend their advantage but, although the fly-half missed for the only time off the tee, it did not matter as Cronin secured the five points in the final quarter.
Tries: Stockdale 2, Murray, Cronin
Cons: Sexton 4
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Jordan Larmour
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Blair Kinghorn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Nick Grigg, 23 Lee Jones
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)