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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Ireland keep Six Nations Grand Slam dream alive with convincing win over Scotland

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Cape Town — Judging by how they climbed in on each other in Sunday’s Six Nations encounter at Murrayfield, the Springboks should brace themselves for two tough-as-nails battles with Ireland and Scotland later this year at the World Cup in France.

The two teams dished up one of the most physical and entertaining clashes of the tournament with Ireland claiming a 22-7 win to stay on course for a Grand Slam and the Six Nations crown.

Ireland just need a win from their final match against England this weekend to claim the spoils.

The Irish and Scots are in Pool B of the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks. The Boks face Scotland (September 10 in Marseille) in their opener and Ireland (September 23 in Saint-Denis) in the third pool match.

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, and the rest of the management most likely had their notebooks out for this Murrayfield clash that produced a lot of sparks that would make some Springbok supporters shift around with uneasiness in their seats.

It was physical from the first whistle as the Irish and Scots dished up some entertaining running rugby that will most definitely pique the interest of the Springboks defence.

Both backlines varied their play with loop and skip passes off scrums, rucks and line-outs and found space plenty of times when they went on the run.

The first half also produced some massive hits and despite losing three key players early on, Ireland continued to keep the Scots under pressure.

Scotland, though, did not let up at all and with some brilliant defence and interplay between their forwards and backline, kept the Irish defence honest.

Scotland Fullback Stuart Hogg, South African-born wingers Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn and centre pairing Sione Tuipolotu and Huw Jones were the standouts for Scotland in the backs.

Tuipolotu and Jones combined well for Scotland’s try that put them briefly ahead.

In the pack, another South African Scot in Pierre Schoeman, was at the forefront of his teams’ ball carrying into the Irish traffic.

While the teams went into half-time with Ireland ahead 8-7, it was only a matter of time before the game would open up.

And that’s where Ireland is so dangerous.

They have incredible strike runners to force their way over the advantage line and with the pace of Mack Hansen and James Lowe out wide, they soon piled the pressure on the Scottish defence.

Hansen, who also scored the first Irish try brilliantly, out-jumped a flat-footed Van der Merwe after a pin-point box kick in the second half and this win in the air led to Lowe’s try in the opposite corner.

This error by Van der Merwe will clearly show the Boks that, apart from scrums and mauls, the box kick against the Scots can be one of their main attacking weapons.

For Ireland, who showed why they are the No 1 team in the world, better plans should be made. They fielded box kicks quite well, they thwarted Scotland’s driving maul and their defence held out too.

Despite losing key forwards early on, the pack kicked on and that is what makes them one of the most formidable teams currently in world rugby.

If they do beat England this weekend, there can be no doubt that the Irish, who have never progressed past the quarter-finals of a World Cup, will later this year be heading to France as firm favourites.

@Leighton_K

IOL Sport

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