Six Nations Championship
Scots see-off Irish in see-saw battle
Scotland triumphed over the much-fancied Irish in scintillating style with the result in doubt until the final minutes.
It was the first time for 11 years that Scotland won their opening match in the tournament.
Relentless Irish pressure brought the visitors back into a see-saw contest after Scotland scored three tries in the first half hour to give them what seemed an unassailable lead.
Paddy Jackson led the Irish comeback in the second period after they trailed the Scots 21-8 at half-time .
Stuart Hogg ran in two tries and Alex Dunbar a third, all three converted by Greig Laidlaw, to give Scotland a comfortable early advantage over the much-fancied Irish at Murrayfield.
In a terrific opener to the Six Nations, Scotland produced some of their best rugby for years, delivering on expectations that they will have a good tournament.
Hogg’s first came after eight minutes and his second on 20 minutes after he picked up a pass 20 yards from the line.
The second try came against the run of play as the Irish began to dominate possession in the first quarter of an hour and their efforts were rewarded with a try from a long pass to Keith Earls.
Tommy Seymour missed the attempted interception. Paddy Jackson missed the conversion.
Alex Dunbar grabbed the ball from a line-out to storm over the line for Scotland’s third try of the afternoon.
Jackson scored a penalty on 33 minutes to pull the Irish back into the match.
Half-time: Scotland 21 Ireland 8
On 45 minutes Duncan Weir replaced Finn Russell who was taken off following a head injury as the Irish pressed early in the second half and Iain Henderson forced a try after 47 minutes, converted by Jackson to reduce the deficit to 21-15.
Russell passed the head inspection to return in place of Weir who made a big impression with a kick into the Irish half to relieve the pressure on the home side.
Sean Maitland intercepted for the Scots to stop what looked a certain try for the Irish on 57 minutes. Minutes later Maitland again came to the rescue on the line to force Rob Kearney into touch to rule out a try for Keith Earls.
Scotland, however, were facing relentless pressure from the Irish forwards and Jackson scored a try on 62 minutes which he converted to give them a 22-21 lead.
Scotland regained the lead (24-22) on 72 minutes courtesy of a Laidlaw penalty.
They forfeited the opportunity to convert another penalty on 76 minutes, opting for the line-out just eight metres out.
Laidlaw scored a winning penalty in the final minute.
Under the new scoring system the Irish won the first bonus point as losers by fewer than seven points.
After the match, double-try scorer Hogg said: “That was a cracking game. We switched off a bit in the start of the second half but the boys are delighted with that result and a great way to kick off the Six Nations here at Murrayfield.”
Scotland captain Greg Laidlaw: “I think you can hear what it means to this crowd. Hearing the National Anthem at the start in this stadium – thats what it’s all about.”
Ireland captain Rory Best said: “Ultimately the way we started cost us. We knew they were a quality outfit and started with a lot of emotion momentum and we were not good enough to stop it.
“We fought back well to get into the lead, but if you start like that away from home in the Six Nations you are always going to be up against it.
“We made a few uncharacteristic errors, didn’t execute the way we wanted to and weren’t good enough from a couple of line-outs.
“They seemed to score every time they touched the ball at one point. We are hugely disappointed that when we took the lead we weren’t able to close it out.”
England edge out France
England 19 France 16
France were outplayed the homes side in many areas of the pitch, but it was England – unbeaten in 15 games – who came out on top.
The visitors failed to capitalise on a number of breaks while England’s substitutions proved decisive.
Man of the match Louis Picamoles is one for the Scots to watch next week.