IRELAND 35 SCOTLAND 25
Ireland will take some positives from a disappointing RBS 6 Nations campaign after finishing third after a deserved win over Scotland in Dublin on Saturday evening.
England’s 31-21 in Paris against France saw them complete the Grand Slam having been crowned champions a week earlier and that French loss ensured the Irish finished third.
The defending champions finished the back-end of the campaign with two victories to give Joe Schmidt his projected mid-table finish.
Stuart Hogg’s brilliant solo run put The Dark Blues in front after 20 minutes but that was a rare highlight for Vern Cotter’s visitors.
Ireland were always in command and quickly hit back with two tries in the space of three minutes from CJ Stander and Keith Earls as they regained control.
Further tries in the second half through Murray and Devin Toner ensured Ireland were always on the front foot, although the Scots never gave up with Richie Gray and Dunbar crossing.
The hosts made an encouraging start, with scrum-half Conor Murray setting a rapid tempo. Their reward was a fifth-minute Johnny Sexton penalty.
Scotland were being put under some early pressure and had to resort to foul means to halt Irish progress. Sexton tugged a second attempt at the posts but quickly made amends with a successful third kick to nudge Ireland further in front.
Dark Blues skipper Greig Laidlaw got his side off the mark with a penalty after quarter of an hour, but Ireland’s six-point lead was soon restored as Sexton knocked over again.
But Scotland are a much more dangerous side than the one thumped 40-10 in last year’s duel between the sides at Murrayfield and caught Ireland with a sucker-punch to land the first try.
Hogg grabbed possession on halfway and sold Mike Ross a dummy as he burst through the Irish defence before running all the way home, with Laidlaw converting.
But the touchdown only seemed to provoke Schmidt’s team and they immediately returned to exerting more pressure on the Scots.
Scottish flanker John Barclay eventually paid the price for repeated infringements around the ruck as he was sent to the bin by French referee Pascal Gauzere.
And Ireland quickly made the most of their man advantage as they let their forwards rough up the Scots’ defence with a series of brutal drives before Stander dived over from point-blank range to re-establish his side’s authority after 28 minutes, with Sexton doing the business with the conversion.
A moment of brilliance from the Leinster fly-half teed up Earls for a quick-fire second score after 31 minutes.
Sexton looked as he if was ready to spray the ball wide but as the Scottish defence raced to meet him - instead he clipped the ball over the top. Hogg and team-mate Tommy Seymour only got in each other’s way as they chased the bouncing ball, and smashed into one another, leaving Earls unchallenged to run into the corner. Sexton’s conversion attempt was off target.
Another Laidlaw penalty on the stroke of half-time saved Scotland from being completely left behind.