Ireland v Scotland: Five takeaways as ‘deserved’ champions edge past a ‘sensational’ Scottish defence to clinch back-to-back Six Nations titles

Jared Wright
Ireland’s Andrew Porter celebrates scoring their sides second try of the game during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

Ireland’s Andrew Porter celebrates scoring their sides second try of the game during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

Following Ireland’s 17-13 victory over Scotland to clinch back-to-back Six Nations titles, here are our five takeaways from the clash at Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The top line

Ireland once again wore the favourites tag as they hosted Scotland in the Six Nations title decider on the final day of the 2024 Championship. While they managed to get over the line, the visitors did not make life easy for them.

The Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations got off to an early start, but many Irishmen will have been clutching their pint of Guinness as Andy Farrell’s side hammered into the Scottish defence, which remained securely shut on the whole.

But as they have done time and time again this campaign, when the opportunity arose, they were ruthless, with Dan Sheehan pouncing on an overthrown Scottish lineout five metres from the line to score yet another try. The floodgates remained shut as Ireland led just 7-6 at the break before Andrew Porter thundered over in the 63rd minute for the crucial try. Huw Jones’ 77th-minute try kept the game on a knife’s edge right to the final minute, but the champions held strong to retain the title.

It was a game where the two sides threw everything and the kitchen sink at one another for a full 80 minutes, but in the end, the men in green rose to the occasion and, this time, did not crumble with the pressure of expectation.

Superb Scottish defence

Gregor Townsend, like the fans, would have demanded a reaction from his team this week after a shock defeat to Italy and in defence, they got it.

Ireland has arguably the most sophisticated attacking structure in world rugby and are able to keep the pressure on their opposition for long periods of time, phase after phase after phase. This means that they eventually open up even the best defences, but Scotland were up to the task today.

They were heroic on defence in the first half, making over 121 tackles – the tackle counting comfortably surpassing 200 by full time – a tally almost double that of Ireland’s as they played much of the first half in their own territory.

The Scots rushed up at key times to apply the pressure on the Irish attack, forcing uncharacteristic errors from the press and were unfortunate to be behind at the break.

It was just the accuracy of their defence as they remained connected as a line and shot up in the same fashion, but also the ferocity of their tackles as they drove Irish ball carriers backwards with the double hits, also slowing down a quick recycle of possession, which the Irish attack thrives off.

Collectively, it was a sensational squad effort, but it would be remiss not to highlight the brilliance of blindside flanker Andy Christie, who made over 25 tackles and won two crucial turnovers. Scott Cummings, Zander Fagerson, and Jack Dempsey all racked up over 20 tackles each, and 12 of 15 starters hit double digits.

Ireland seal back-to-back Six Nations titles after hard-fought victory over Scotland

Scots are the architects of their own downfall

Although they produced a sensational defensive effort, the Scots were undone by their own errors. The back ball throw from the lineout was always going to be risky, and a slight overthrow meant that Sheehan was left unmarked as he snapped up the ball and charged over the line for his fifth try of the Championship.

The second Ireland score was more down to some smarts and deception from the Irish pack, which almost didn’t come off, but on attack the Scots did let themselves down.

Despite Finn Russell’s brilliance in the playmaking role, there were a few too many occasions today when he was slightly too lethargic and overconfident in possession. This led to wasted opportunities, with more than one of his passes finding grass instead of hands, and on other occasions, he was too quick to pull the trigger with the chip and cross kicks.

It was not all Russell, with many of his teammates trying to be too cute and flamboyant. Notably, Pierre Schoeman attempted a show-and-go just inside his own half, leading to a penalty and a chance for Ireland to increase their lead before half-time, but the kick was wide.

Deserved Six Nations winners

Despite the disappointment of not securing back-to-back Grand Slams, Ireland’s defence of their Six Nations title is a shining example of their unwavering resilience. The task of defending a Six Nations title is no walk in the park, and the sheer intensity of their final two matches in this campaign only serves to underline the magnitude of the challenge they faced.

Both England and Scotland were written off before the first whistle, and both put in stellar performances to make Farrell’s charges sweat as their grip on the trophy started to slip. But in the end, they managed to just about hold on and win the Championship for the sixth time since Italy was added.

The hammerings of France, Italy and Wales in the opening three rounds set the tone for their campaign as they rampaged to 15 league points from a possible 15. A loss to England may have been a setback, but they rallied enough to narrowly defeat a determined Scottish side that refused to back down. Despite not being at their peak in the final two matches, they proved to be the strongest team in the competition.

Even today, with Scotland rising to the occasion and putting in a performance to really test them, Ireland remained disciplined and accurate.

Conor Murray’s clearance into touch gave England one final chance to grab a win, which they duly took with both hands, but that also came as Ireland overcame the challenge of getting back into the game and into a winning position – a sign of a championship side. Today, Scotland made their job insanely difficult, but again, Farrell’s side found a way.

If the pre-match tears were anything to go by, it also marks the end of captain Peter O’Mahony’s international career, with his current contract expiring with Munster. The abrasive back-rower usually belts out the anthem but was quite emotional during Ireland’s Call and Amhrán na bhFiann, suggesting that this was his final game in Dublin. He was given a rousing cheer when he departed the pitch, and while his contract situation is in dire straits as the IRFU quite frankly disrespects a legend of the green jersey, leading his country to a Six Nations title is a fitting send-off to one of the toughest customers Ireland have ever produced.

Peter O’Mahony set for shock retirement after Ireland’s Six Nations finale – report

Scotland missed opportunities, Ireland will be pleased

The two teams will have contrasting feelings about their campaigns as they dust themselves off and start preparations for the July internationals.

For Scotland, they should feel hugely disappointed in what could have been a first Six Nations title, but a TMO decision against France and an under-par showing against Italy undid their bid. They pitched up today and put in a showing that they can certainly be proud of. But consistency still continues to be the buzzword that follows this team.

Meanwhile, Farrell gets his hands on a second Six Nations title before he takes a break from the tournament to prepare for the British and Irish Lions next year. The England game will be the only blemish on their record this campaign, but the golden generation still managed to deliver on their favourite tag. They will regroup before heading to South Africa, which is bound to be a titanic two-Test series.

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