With the worst possible start to Scotland’s Rugby World Cup campaign out in Japan, Jamie Byrne takes apart just what went wrong in Yokohama.
The International Stadium of Yokohama was to be the host of what would be a totally contrasting display between the two sides, both that were going into the match with great expectations for their World Cup Campaign. Unfortunately, it would be Scotland who would put on a quite frankly embarrassing opening performance on the main stage, losing by a heavy 27-3.
After a fairly disappointing Six Nations campaign, which saw Gregor Townsend's side average the most amount of missed tackles throughout the tournament, as well as a shaky build up to this year’s World Cup, with a heavy defeat to France in Nice and extremely narrow victories over Georgia and France at Murrayfield, Scotland had it all to prove. As Scotland fans united on getting out of their beds early on a Sunday morning, the least that was expected was an attempt at ending their horror run of not being able to beat a Tier One side in the World Cup since 2007, when Scotland pulled through a nail biting affair against Italy.
From start to finish in the humid Japanese climate, it was an absolute gruelling display by the Scots as the Irish dominated from kick off and set the tone with an early converted try from James Ryan after the Second Row managed to finish off a powerful offensive move, Scotland unable to defend against Ireland's tight play in the fifth minute of the match.
A second Irish try was quickly added when the boys in green continued to put a huge amount of pressure on the Scottish forward pack, as effective play from the set piece was finished off by the 38 year old veteran Rory Best as he did well to position his body for the try in the 15th minute of the match. Sexton would narrowly miss the conversion, not like it would matter in the grand scheme of things.
Finally, after a dismal start to the match a glimmer of hope would be found (later to be squashed like a bug) when some smart passing play by Scotland was rewarded with the first points of the tournament after a Greig Laidlaw penalty was comfortably placed between the posts in the 23rd minute of the match.
Ireland’s dominance was quickly reinstated when CJ Stander made a wonderful carry from the back of the scrum deep inside Scotland’s half, and was duly rewarded two phases later when Tadgh Furlong smashed his way through and sealed Ireland's third try of the match in the 26thminute of the match. This time Conor Murray sealed the extra points due to Sexton receiving treatment at the time. Also being the concluding point scoring of what was an extremely clinical first half for the Irish, against what seemed like a heartless Scottish Team.
A huge half-time team talk would be required from Townsend’s side if they wanted to even nearly crawl back from the 16-point deficit which they had found themselves in, going into the second half. However, no real change was seen, as Scotland continued to struggle to contain the clinical Irish side. Ireland went on to wrap up the game as they continued their kicking game which saw the ball end up with Andrew Conway out on the wing, who danced past Grant Gilchrist within the 15 and seal Ireland’s fourth and final try of the match in the 56th minute of the match. After Sexton was substituted a few moments earlier due to an ongoing knock throughout the match, Murray continued his kicking duties, but saw the ball fly past the posts from a tough angle. With just 10 minutes remaining of the match it looked like both teams were happy with the score. Only one more penalty was converted through Jack Carty in the 69th minute as it rounded off a wonderful day for one side of the Irish sea and a miserable day for the other.
This was a really concerning start for Scotland, just the outcome we wanted to avoid. It wasn’t just that it seemed like the team wasn’t playing well, it was more that the side didn’t actually seem to be bothered on the pitch. Hopefully this was just nerves, due to it being the biggest stage of rugby and that they will be able to turn it around against Samoa if they want any chance of qualifying from the group stage. It’s going to be one big climb after such a spineless display from the team.