Joy in Murrayfield as Ireland Retain Six Nations Title

In one of the most heart stopping days ever seen in world rugby it was Ireland that eventually won the 2015 Six Nations title. England agonisingly came up just short after needing to beat France by 26 clear points to win the championship but could only manage a victory by 20.

Ireland overcame Scotland by 30 points in what was a comfortable win, especially in the second half. Captain Paul O’Connell led the way with an early try to settle Irish nerves and that was soon followed up by a superb set play lineout that saw Sean O’Brien cross over the try line for Ireland’s second try.

Joe Schmidt’s charges continued the open play that was seen in the last quarter of the Welsh game with Tommy Bowe and the returning Luke Fitzgerald finding plenty of space. Conor Murray, after a quiet game at the Millennium Stadium was back to his very best.

Although they were holding on to the ball more efficiently, Ireland were still kicking aimlessly and were being punished at times by a dangerous Scottish counter attack with Stuart Hogg and Mark Bennett always looking dangerous.

Scotland were eventually rewarded when Finn Russell crossed over for their only try. That was as good as it got for the home side as Ireland went into half time ahead by 20-10.

The second half completely belonged to Ireland. They were dominant in every facet of the game. Rory Best was doing serious damage at the breakdown. Peter O’Mahony, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien dominated the back row. Paul O’Connell, as he has done in every game in the tournament continued to outshine every other second row on the pitch.

This was also a period of the game where Jared Payne showed just why Joe Schmidt persevered with him after a less than encouraging start to his international career. He picked a sensational line to score Ireland’s third try. As Scotland tried to come back into the game, Payne also put in a huge defensive hit that forced a knock on inside Ireland’s 22. His confidence grew each time he touched the ball.

As Ireland’s stranglehold on the game became tighter Scotland began to give away more penalties, especially at the scrum. Geoff Cross was eventually punished with the sin bin for his team’s constant infringements.  Jonny Sexton surprisingly missing twice from placed kicks where he would have expected to easily convert.

Sean O’Brien was superb all game and was rewarded with his second try of the contest. The “Tullow Tank” scoring from close range after severe Irish pressure on the Scotland line. O’Brien had his best game of the tournament at Murrayfield and was deservedly chosen as Man of the Match.

Scotland came back with one last assault on the Irish line and Stuart Hogg looked to have crossed for a try but replays showed that Jamie Heaslip’s last gasp tackle had forced Hogg to knock on. That tackle effectively won the Six Nations title for Ireland.

Ireland’s team under Schmidt pride themselves on a solid defence and it is no surprise to see that at the competition’s end it is they who top the charts for least points conceded and tries against. To concede just 56 points in the competition is remarkable. To concede only three tries in five games is truly astonishing.

Sexton’s missed kicks and another miss late on by Ian Madigan could have made the England – France game a bit easier to watch for the Irish players, management and fans but any rugby watcher must have been enthralled by Wales astonishing effort in Rome, Ireland’s demolishing of Scotland and England and France’s staggering accomplishments at Twickenham. A sensational day of rugby that we may never see again.

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