Ireland win back-to-back Six Nations titles with narrow win over valiant Scotland

Ireland retained their Six Nations title with a gritty 17-13 win over Scotland at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Saturday, March 16.

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Tries by Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter got the Irish over the line as the hosts were thwarted time and again by a magnificent Scottish defence.

The title — in winning two in a row they emulate Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side of 2014-2015 — is some consolation for missing out on historic Six Nations Grand Slams after being beaten by England last weekend.

Peter O’Mahony has yet to discuss whether he remains captain and the 34-year-old veteran was in tears at the national anthems, receiving a sympathetic pat on the head from Munster teammate Tadhg Beirne.

However, he was grinning from ear to ear once the trophy was in the bag.

“I don’t know. If it was my last one, it was a pretty good one,” he said.

“Thankfully we went out and did it against a good team. We showed grit, ambition with the ball, and I thought we played some good rugby.

“We spoke about getting stuck in, and put a lot of work in their legs. I thought the 10 minutes after half-time was really impressive.”

Head coach Andy Farrell could not have been prouder of his side.

“It was a war of attrition,” the 48-year-old Englishman said.

“I am delighted for the lads as back-to-back titles is very difficult to achieve.”

His Scotland counterpart Gregor Townsend also expressed his pride in his side, who nevertheless were going down to their 10th successive defeat to the Irish.

“I feel really proud of the players,” he said.

“The effort they put in today in one of the toughest environments to play in.”

Sheehan gets fifth try

The Scots opened the scoring in the eighth minute, Finn Russell slotting over a penalty to bring up a half century of points in this campaign after James Lowe had been penalised.

However, the Scots gave away a soft try as hooker George Turner overthrew and it was picked off by Dan Sheehan who had the simplest of tasks to touch down — his fifth try of the tournament.

Jack Crowley converted from wide out on the right for 7-3.

Ireland’s ill discipline has been a glaring weakness in the championship and Russell landed a second penalty due to another Irish infringement in the 18th minute.

Neither side could impose themselves on the game as defences held firm and there were few if any scoring opportunites leaving the match very much in the balance at the end of a scrappy first-half.

The Irish, though, started the second period in lively fashion and Crowley landed a penalty after some excellent attacking play for 10-6.

Russell’s ability to make schoolboy errors then handed the Irish the initiative as he put the ball out direct from the kick-off.

The Irish turned on the pressure as the Scots defence wilted but Tadhg Furlong was denied a try as he was judged to have knocked on as he went to touch the ball down.

The Irish pressed but Calvin Nash was guilty of failing to pass as he closed on the line and the outstanding Scottish flanker Andy Christie forced a turnover.

The Scottish defence was magnificent as the Irish camped on their line and although they conceded penalties somehow they kept the hosts out.

They also managed to force errors with the normally reliable Garry Ringrose, making his first appearance of the tournament, showing his rustiness as he knocked on with the line beckoning.

Ringrose, though, redeemed himself with a superb solo run down the wing which gave the Irish great position but again they were denied a try as Robbie Henshaw was held up.

However, referee Matthew Carley had lost patience with the Scots conceding penalties and sin-binned Ewan Ashman whilst awarding the Irish another penalty.

This time with a man advantage the hosts made no mistake as Andrew Porter went over and Crowley converted to stretch Ireland’s lead to 17-6.

The Scots hit straight back after Harry Byrne was sin-binned, Huw Jones breaking through and touching down under the posts.

The Irish managed to see out the final minutes of the game, allowing their signature tune Zombie by The Cranberries be played at full volume once Carley blew the final whistle.

 

The ‘crunch’ in Lyon

Thomas Ramos landed a last-minute penalty to give France a 33-31 victory over England in the final match of the Six Nations on Saturday and secure a second-place finish behind Ireland who had earlier retained the title with victory over Scotland.

France surged into an early 16-3 lead after a try for Nolann Le Garrec and the goal-kicking of Ramos but two tries by Ollie Lawrence either side of halftime edged England ahead before tries by Leo Barre and Gael Fickou gave France a 30-24 lead.

Tommy Freeman crossed to put England ahead and dreaming of a first win in Paris since 2016 but Ramos’s last-gasp penalty secured victory for the hosts.

Ireland finished on 20 points with France second on 15 ahead of England on 14 and Scotland on 12.

 

(AFP, Reuters)

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