Ireland secured their second World Cup warm-up victory in as many weeks after a hard-fought 28-22 victory over an experimental Scotland on Saturday. The hosts’ out-scored their opponents by four tries to three as Luke Fitzgerald’s late touchdown proved the only difference between the sides.
Ireland took the lead through a Chris Henry try after 14 minutes but Vern Cotter’s men fought back on the half hour mark when flanker Blair Cowan finished a prolonged period of pressure in the Irish half. The score actually stayed at 7-7 until shortly after half-time.
Scrum-half and Captain Henry Pyrgos then darted over from short range to score the visitors’ second try to take a surprise lead after 43 minutes. The game swung to-and-fro all day and Ireland re-took the lead with two tries in quick succession. First hooker Sean Cronin barged over after a pulverising rolling maul, leaving the Scottish defence hapless on their own line.
Then, an incisive inside ball from Iain Madigan put Simon Zebo into enough space to waltz through would-be Scottish tacklers and cruise under the posts for the home side’s third try. Scotland would not be floored by the latest blow delivered by the 2nd-ranked team in the world and fought back through a well taken Peter Horne try.
Into the closing stages, neither side had done quite enough to seize hold of the match and it took another moment of Madigan genius to finally give Ireland the conduit. A sublimely weighted cross-field kick sat up beautifully for the on-coming Fitzgerald, who, taking the ball at pace, was no match for the covering Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
Madigan converted and Ireland saw the match out till the end.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt praised the character of his side to dig out the victory, particularly having come from behind to do so. “It was a test match and we were tested all day. We fell behind behind a few times and had to show a bit of character when we slipped behind.”
As for Cotter, the Kiwi appreciated that his team are making progress but that further improvements are needed before September’s competition.
“I think there were some good things and of course some things we need to work on. The players intentions were good at times but we let Ireland score a few easy tries. We still haven’t been to shift the ball as quickly from line outs. We are hoping to fix these things throughout the next few weeks.”