EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 1 – IRELAND 36 SCOTLAND 10 – Report
New Ireland head coach Stuart Littler, having taken over from Mark Aston, marked his first game in charge with a comfortable win at Santry’s Morton Stadium, to set the Wolfhounds on the road to 2021 World Cup qualification.
His men ran in seven tries, establishing a decisive lead by the break, with veteran skipper Liam Finn at the heart of their best work.
“It was an outstanding opening 40 minutes,” Littler said. “We even let them off the hook at times and could have been more ruthless. We knew, with the wind against, it was going to be a bit of a challenge in the second period especially as the guys haven’t played together for a while.
“We’ll build on that and I think we’ll get better by the week, I’m looking forward now to next week against France, that’s a massive game.”
Littler added: “It’s a good start, but that’s all it is. We’ve got a bit of a changing of the guard, I’m all for giving youth an opportunity and some lads took it with both hands.”
Scotland, who lost Lewis Tierney in the warm up, knocked on from the kick off but held out for close on quarter of an hour, Ireland opening the scoring when Finn’s kick to the corner was batted back by Ethan Ryan into the grateful arms of Tyrone McCarthy, Finn missing the conversion.
Three minutes later, Ryan scored himself, pouncing on a loose ball in the Scotland in-goal area after a mix-up by the visiting defenders, Finn again wide with the goal attempt.
Scotland came close on the half hour, debutant Nick Glohe breaking clear on a powerful run but just bundled in to touch by the Irish cover defence.
The Bravehearts were made to pay when, from a Greg McNally break, lively hooker Dec O’Donnell scooted from dummy half up the right and found a gap to dive over to mark his first cap, Finn adding the extras.
Just before the break, Finn’s excellent cut out pass found James Bentley – playing at centre – in space and his jinking run took him over from 20 metres, Finn making it 20-0 at the break with a touchline conversion.
Two minutes into the second period, Waterford winger Alan McMahon rescued a low pass from Bentley to go over in the left corner, Finn wide with the kick.
Scotland enjoyed their best spell soon after, two tries in eight minutes a reward for their persistence.
Glohe with a deserved try on debut when he finished a flowing left to right move to crash over, and skipper Ben Kavanagh made the most of a flat pass in midfield to step his way over, Ryan Brierley with the successful goal.
The final two scores went to young Wigan centre Jack Higginson, the first from another superbly timed Finn pass and, in the final minute, following a Finn high kick to the corner on the back of a tap penalty, Higginson winning the race to the ball.
“The start of the game really set a tone for us,” commented joint Scotland head coach Chris Chester. “We didn’t complete for three or four sets on the bounce and gave the Irish too much field position.”
“I was happy with the second half performance, it was a great response from the guys and something we can work with.
Chester added: “It’s certainly been an eye-opener for me on the preparation side of things and that’s something we need to get used to. Hopefully, we’ll be better for this outing.”
Scott Grix, Alan McMahon, James Bentley, Jack Higginson, Ethan Ryan, Gregg McNally, Liam Finn, Liam Byrne, Dec O’Donnell, George King, Tyrone McCarthy, Will Hope, Lewis Bienek
Subs (all used): Peter Ryan, Ronan Michael, Gareth Gill, Michael Ward
Tries: McCarthy (14), Ryan (7), O’Donnell (33), Bentley (37), McMahon (42), Higginson (61, 79)
Goals: Finn 4/7
David Scott, Davey Dixon, Murray Mitchell, Will Oakes, Finn Hutchison, Oscar Thomas, Ryan Brierley, Ben Kavanagh, Kane Bentley, Billy McConnachie, Frankie Mariano, Nick Glohe, Sam Luckley
Substitues (used): Luke Westman, Lewis Clarke, Kieran Moran (Not used) Lewis Tierney
Tries: Glohe (46), Kavanagh (56)
Goals: Brierley 1/2
Referee: Tom Grant
Penalty count: 1-7
Men of the Match:
IRELAND – Liam Finn SCOTLAND – Nick Glohe
Scoring sequence: 4-0, 8-0, 14-0, 20-0, 24-0, 24-4, 24-10, 30-10, 36-10