#RWC2019: Ireland deliver a brutal lesson to hapless Scotland in tournament opener

Gregor Townsend's team slump to a heavy defeat in opening game of World Cup campaign

Scotland v Ireland
Scotland suffered a heavy defeat against Ireland in their World Cup opener. Image: Craig Watson
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Ireland 27

Scotland 3


IRELAND delivered a brutal lesson in what big time rugby looks and feels like. They battered Scotland up-front and exposed their naivety behind in the process of helping themselves to three first half tries – all scored by tight-five forwards – which killed the game as a contest by the 26th minute.

A fourth try in the second half secured the bonus point win for the men in green, while it felt like the boys in blue could have played all week without scoring.

The big question now from a Scottish perspective is: how will Gregor Townsend’s team recover from this physical and psychological battering before taking on Samoa a week on Monday? There was a real sense of optimism permeating from the squad during the build-up to this match, and what happened here will have shaken them to their core. They are not as good a team as they thought they were, and there is now a very real danger that this World Cup campaign could unravel.

Yesterday’s Premiership results –

Musselburgh v Edinburgh Accies: clinical visitors give proof of title credentials

Jed-Forest v Glasgow Hawks: Borderers hold on to claim first win

GHA v Marr: Ayrshire men continue winning ways

Currie Chieftains v Hawick: home side make hay while the sun shines

Aberdeen Grammar shake off late arrival to secure comfortable win in the Borders

Ireland took the lead in the sixth minute when Iain Henderson burst onto a pop from the base of a ruck and swept past some pedestrian defending from Stuart McInally and Grant Gilchrist. Stuart Hogg managed to down the marauding Irishman, but a few phases later James Ryan scrambled over from close range, with Johnny Sexton adding the conversion.

They powered to their second score on 14 minutes when Sexton kicked a penalty to the corner, and a heaving mass of green jerseys powered Rory Best over the chalk. A subsequent replay on the big screen suggested that the Irish captain may not have got the ball down under pressure from opposite number McInally, but referee Wayne Barnes insisted that the TMO had checked the footage and assured him that everything was in order to award the score.

Scotland rallied briefly with some quick, brave hands in midfield outflanking Ireland’s rush defence to create gap on the right for Tommy Seymour to have a go. Ireland scrambled back but gave away a penalty at a subsequent ruck which Laidlaw turned into three points.

An excellent long diagonal from Finn Russell caught out Jacob Stockdale and pinned Ireland back inside their 22 almost straight from the restart, but, just as they were beginning to build up a head of steam, Scotland fumbled as they tried to work an intricate play in midfield from quick line-out ball. Ireland hacked ahead, Hogg got back first but the ball rebounded off the post meaning the Scottish full-back ended up being bundled over his own line and forced into conceding a scrum-five. Ireland turned the screw, CJ Stander had a massive carry off the base and Tadhg Furlong powered over a few phases later.

It looked like the wheels had come off when Stander picked up at the base of a ruck in the middle of the park and found he had been presented with a huge gap to gallop through, but fortunately Ireland conceded a penalty at the subsequent ruck which allowed Hogg to clear to halfway, and Townsend’s team lived to fight another day.

But the pressure didn’t relent. Sam Johnson did well to get back to make a try-saving tackle on Stockdale after the Irish winger made good ground off first phase scrum ball on the blindside with a chip-and chase.

Scotland then suffered another major setback with just three minutes of the half left when Hamish Watson hurt his knee at a ruck and had to be stretchered from the field. The openside flanker is a crucial member of this team and will be a big miss if the injury is as serious as it seemed at the time.

Ireland had an opportunity to extend their lead just before the break when WP Nel was penalised for collapsing a scrum, but with Sexton over on the touchline taking on some water, Conor Murray pulled his 40-metre shot at goal to the left of the posts. The much-anticipated Typhoon Tapah arrived during the interval, but Scotland’s spirits were already dampened as much as they could be.

The second half started in the same fashion as the first had ended, with Ireland mugging Scotland at a ruck in midfield and Andrew Conway almost managing to get a hand to a kicked-through ball ahead of Hogg in the dead-ball area. Fortunately for Scotland, the winger couldn’t assert downward pressure.

It took until the 56th minute before Ireland struck again to secure the bonus-point try, when Conway pressurised Ryan Wilson as he tried to collect Murray’s towering box-kick, Jordan Lamour picked up the loose ball, and Murray sent Conway jinking home.

Jack Carty, on for Sexton, knocked over an offside penalty after Ireland had once again made good ground from first phase scrum ball.

Ireland were home and hosed, but their competitive instinct was unrelenting, as was demonstrated when Tadhg Beirne sacrificed himself to a yellow card on 64 minutes for killing the ball after a rare moment of Scottish lucidity saw replacement centre Chris Harris thread Hogg through a gap.

Scotland set up camp in the Irish 22 during their period with an extra man but couldn’t get any change from Ireland’s fully-committed defence. There was still no backing off from the men in green, they were even steeling line-out possession on their own line. Scotland, meanwhile, were out of ideas and just desperate for the misery to be over.

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Teams –

Ireland: J Larmour; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki (C Farrell 20), J Stockdale; J Sexton (J Carty 56), C Murray (L McGrath 56); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 49), R Best, T Furlong (A Porter 49), I Henderson (T Beirne 56), J Ryan, P O’Mahony (J van der Flier 31, N Scannell 73), J van der Flier (J Conan 23), C Stander.

Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour (D Graham 56), D Taylor (C Harris 65), S Johnson, S Maitland; F Russell, G Laidlaw (A Price 60); A Dell (G Reid 61), S McInally, W Nel (S Berghan 52), G Gilchrist, J Gray (S Cummings 65), J Barclay (B Thomson 52), H Watson (F Brown 37), R Wilson.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)


Scorers –

Ireland: Tries: Ryan, Best, Furlong; Con: Sexton 2; Pen: Carty.

Scotland: Pen: Laidlaw.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 12-3; 17-3; 19-3 (h-t) 24-3; 27-3.


Yellow cards –

Ireland: Beirne


Attendance: 63,731

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The Grudge by Tom English
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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1987 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. The tight five just didn’t front up or show up to be more exact.
    The platform needs to be there before Scotland can unleash the backs

  2. We have failed to fire to often under GT, so now is a huge test of his ability as a coach.
    Samoa will be licking their lips at our inability, yet again, to cope with the direct approach, and Japan will see it as one pundit stated “the biggest game in their history”.
    For me no use picking the same team and expecting a different outcome, especially since the bench added some long awaited zip.
    Will he call time on some of his favourites?
    If not then suspect as others comment here, then taxi time

  3. Can’t produce when it matters.
    Too many overhyped as world class in this team .well this is the time to produce it but we’re posted missing.
    Under pressure Townsend will have to be brutal with selection for next matches getting rid of the hypes
    As there’s no safety net now .
    A lot of jobs on the line if this goes belly up . Dodson & co included

  4. OK, typical loser, but I thought Barnes & the TMO were found wanting on a few occasions prime upon which where Ireland were awarded a try when the camera showed Wilson (?) ground the ball from beneath over our line & an Irish hand then landed on the ball. Irish try awarded.
    I admit grasping at straws, but these are make or break moments.
    Beyond that, we were guilty of too many individuals trying to beat the Irish defence single handed.
    Hogg was particularly predictable & guilty in my very humble opinion.

  5. And we were lucky to get only lose 27 pts. I expect the Ireland manager team will be upset by the scores they left on the park through stupid penalties.

    Your comment “we aren’t as good a team as we thought” allies to us all. What now the best Scottish World Cup squad ever?

    • Completly out played again Townsend maybe a very good club coach but found wanting at test match level u have to earn the right to go wide by trucking it up and taking out defenders then sending it wide we are not playing sevens

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