Ireland thundered into the World Cup quarterfinals after a Parisian romp last night which sent Scotland tumbling out of the tournament. It was the qualification shootout that never was as two first half tries from Hugo Keenan put Andy Farrell’s side on their way to an emphatic win that sent out a warning to last-eight opponents New Zealand.
Scotland’s cause was not helped by the loss of captain Jamie Ritchie to a shoulder injury and full-back Blair Kinghorn to a head knock inside the first quarter. But regardless Ireland were just too strong up front and too slick outside in a Stade de France sea of green that felt like the Aviva Stadium on tour.
The Scots talked the talk in the build-up with Kinghorn predicting unequivocally that this was the night a run of eight successive defeats against Ireland would end. Walking the walk was not quite so straightforward.
It took Ireland all of 63 seconds to strike. Garry Ringrose scythed through in midfield, Mack Hansen came off his wing to make the extra man and James Lowe finished in the corner. Bang. The Scots had announced they would not die wondering and they boldly tossed away kickable penalty chances in search of tries.
Finn Russell fizzed his teammates this way and that but some outstanding Irish defence kept the Scots out after an 18-phase siege. That though was about it as a contest.
Ireland’s approach play was altogether too much for the Scotland defence and Peter O’Mahony, winning his 100th Irish cap, almost put Hansen in for a second Irish try only for the wing to cough up possession stretching for the line. But in the 26th minute a midfield runaround left the Scots bamboozled and Ringrose put Keenan over.
When the full-back slid in for his second try just before the break – following on from Ulster second row Iain Henderson who had plunged over from short range – it was all over by half time. With Kinghorn’s replacement Ollie Smith in the sin-bin for a trip on Johnny Sexton, Dan Sheehan added a fifth try.
Sexton was promptly mothballed and his stand-in Jack Crowley put Ringrose in just before the hour mark with a lovely cross-kick.
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Two tries in two minutes from Ewan Ashman and Ali Price finally put Scotland on the board but it was too little too late. The only debit in the ledger for Ireland was the loss of Hansen and Lowe to injury.
Ireland’s 17th successive victory meant they topped Pool B and booked a date against the All Blacks on Saturday in Paris with runners-up South Africa, the holders, taking on hosts France in another blockbuster Stade de France quarterfinal tie the following day.
It feels like this half of the draw is the World Cup proper with England and Wales’s half the plate competition. Ireland have quarterfinal demons to exorcise next weekend given their past World Cup record but with this side anything is possible. A first semifinal appearance could be only the start of it.
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