Ireland beat Scotland to clinch back-to-back Six Nations

Ireland beat Scotland 17-13 in a nervy game in Dublin to clinch back-to-back Six Nations titles for the second time in 11 years and put last year’s World Cup disappointment behind them.

After England denied them a bid for successive Grand Slams last week, a sluggish Ireland looked at risk of relinquishing their grip on the title and giving the English something to play for in Paris after eking out an unconvincing 7-6 halftime lead.

Andy Farrell’s men showed far more intent straight after the break, however, pushing hard until Andrew Porter’s 65th-minute try put daylight between the sides, only for a late Huw Jones try and an Irish yellow card to set up a nervy finish.

The victory kept Ireland clear of second-placed England, eased the disappointment of another crushing World Cup quarter-final defeat and ensured the post-Johnny Sexton era began with silverware.

“Very special, these days don’t come around very often,” said captain Peter O’Mahony, who had reminded fans after the Twickenham disappointment that Ireland would have given an arm and a leg for a single title not so long ago.

“We put in a lot of hard work, going back to the World Cup. It was tough but it galvanised us. To come back from that defeat, it shows the character in the group we have,” he added.

The veteran Munster back-row forward, who was in tears during the anthems, said before lifting the trophy that the game could be his last for Ireland.

“If it was the last one, I’ll be a happy man,” he said in a pitchside interview.

Scrappy opening

The game was punctuated with nerves for the home fans, with Finn Russell putting Scotland 3-0 ahead after a scrappy opening 10 minutes where the ball spent more time being pinged into the air than put through the hands.

The Scots gifted Ireland an opening try with a horror show of a lineout five metres from their own line that flew past all the Scottish jumpers and into the arms of Dan Sheehan who strolled over for his fifth try of the championship.

A tired looking Ireland attack was nowhere near as fluid as it had been earlier in the campaign, conceding eight early turnovers as the visitors blunted what little Ireland had to offer with an organised defence.

The mistakes were not limited to Ireland though as neither side were able to control a forgettable first half.

Ireland came alive after the break, flyhalf Jack Crowley nudging them four points clear before prop Tadhg Furlong was denied a try in a tight call by the officials.

The home side kept coming but knocked on twice with the tryline beckoning as the subdued atmosphere of the first 40 minutes swung between choruses of “The Fields of Athenry” and nervous groans in the second.

After they were held up on the line again, persistent Scottish fouls put replacement prop Ewan Ashman in the sin bin and the breakthrough arrived when the subsequent penalty found its way to Porter who did the rest.

A yellow card for Irish replacement Harry Byrne four minutes from the end ensured a far nervier finish that Ireland would have liked, particularly when Jones cut the deficit to four points but the hosts hung tight and the celebrations began.

Italy beat beleaguered Wales

Earlier, Italy completed their best Six Nations campaign with a 24-21 win over a desperately poor Wales who scored three late tries in Cardiff but slipped to a fifth successive defeat and finished bottom of the standings.

Italy’s Tommaso Menoncello in action against Wales.

Italy scored tries through winger Monty Ioane and fullback Lorenzo Pani as they won the collisions, were better at the breakdown and overpowered the Welsh scrum in arguably their most accomplished ever Six Nations performance.

Wales’ young squad will lose more experience with retiring stalwart centre George North, who limped off late on, bowing out of test rugby with a demoralising defeat as they crossed for late scores through hooker Elliot Dee, lock Will Rowlands and centre Mason Grady, but were second best on the day.

Italy have two wins and a draw from their five games for the first time in the Six Nations, and 11 points, the most they have managed in a single campaign as their revival under new Argentine coach Gonzalo Quesada gathers momentum.

“It means everything or us,” Italy captain Michele Lamaro said.

“But we want to achieve more, we have had a good tournament, but we know we can do even better than this.

“We have changed the mindset which we take onto the pitch, we have got lots of confidence. We work for each other. We have been through difficult moments and now we must celebrate these good ones.

“Two games does not define a team, we still have to be a lot more consistent in what we are doing and to be competitive with every team in the competition.”

Gatland questions

Warren Gatland’s Wales have now lost 12 of their last 13 Six Nations fixtures and there will inevitably be questions about where he is taking this side despite the retirement of so many experienced players.

“Complete disappointment, no disrespect to Italy but we want to be better than them,” Wales’ 21-year-old captain Dafydd Jenkins said.

“You like to think that under pressure we would rise to the occasion. But this playing group will give everything, I promise you the future is bright. We have to get better as players and we will.”

It was a seventh home Six Nations loss in a row for Wales, their worst ever run and the first time they have lost all five games in the competition and finished bottom of the standings since 2003.

Italy scored the first try midway through the first half with a superb break from their own half that took them to the Welsh line, before they showed patience to create the space in the defensive wall for Ioane to glide over.

The visitors led 11-0 at halftime, the fourth game in this year’s Six Nations that Wales have failed to score in a half.

Wales created momentum early in the second half through winger Rio Dyer and scrumhalf Tomos Williams, but it was ended when lock Adam Beard was penalised for a neck role at a ruck.

The unforced error was compounded when Italy went up the other end of the pitch and scored their second try thanks to a brilliant run from Pani as the visitors cut through their hosts out wide.

Wales had a route back into the game when they scored their first points on 64 minutes when Dee burrowed over the line and got the ball down under heavy Italian pressure, before Rowlands and Grady crossed to give the scoreline a more respectable look.

– Reuters

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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