Rugby Union: Laidlaw late show leads Scotland to victory against Ireland

Scotlands Greig Laidlaw celebrates scoring the winning penalty with teammates.
Scotlands Greig Laidlaw celebrates scoring the winning penalty with teammates.PHOTO: REUTERS

EDINBURGH (AFP) - Two late penalties in the last eight minutes by Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw gave his side a thrilling 27-22 Six Nations opening win against Ireland on Saturday (Feb 4).

The Scots stunned the pre-Championship favourites with three tries in the opening 28 minutes - two by dazzling full-back Stuart Hogg and by centre Alex Dunbar's ingenious intervention in a line-out - but then saw their 21-5 lead disappear.

Winger Keith Earls had already scored one try for Ireland and two more in the second half - by lock Iain Henderson and fly-half Paddy Jackson - put Ireland ahead 22-21.

With the momentum against them, though, the Scots dug deep and Gloucester scrum-half Laidlaw nailed the two late penalties that secured their first opening round win since 2006.

For Ireland, November conquerors of the All Blacks, the only consolation was the first losing bonus point in the history of the championship.

Scotland looked sharp from the off and might have broken through after four minutes had fly-half Finn Russell been able to find Huw Jones as the centre looked to finish a threatening counter attack.

It proved to be a temporary reprieve for Ireland.

Scotland had them stretched in defence in the eighth minute and from quick ruck possession Russell shipped a bouncing pass out wide to the right for Hogg to score.

It was the Glasgow full-back's eighth try in the Six Nations, taking him ahead of Chris Paterson as Scotland's top scorer since the Championship expanded from five nations to six in 2000.

Hogg also became the first Scottish player to score in three successive matches in the Championship since Gregor Townsend achieved the feat when Scotland won the last Five Nations crown in 1999.

Laidlaw's conversion put Scotland 7-0 up but they had to absorb some fierce pressure before Hogg produced the piece of magic that conjured his second try.

It came in the 20th minute, Russell and Jones zipping out flat passes that found Hogg on the left, but with three defenders ahead of him.

The 24-year-old happens to be a distant relative of George Best and there were shades of the late, great former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer as Hogg wrong-footed Earls with an outrageous dummy and skipped past the other two defenders to touch down.

Laidlaw again converted, making it 14-0, but Ireland hit back in the 25th minute, Earls scoring in the left corner, Jackson failing to convert.

Three minutes later Scotland had their third try on the board and it was another stunner.

From a line-out in the right corner, the Scots had three backs at the front of the line - Laidlaw, wing Tommy Seymour and Alex Dunbar.

It was a ploy that completely wrong-footed the Irish pack, Dunbar taking the throw from replacement hooker Ross Ford for a score that must have left Ireland coach Joe Schmidt aghast.

Laidlaw's conversion made it 21-5 to the Scots.

Jackson pegged back three points with a penalty but Scotland managed to snuff out a Simon Zebo break in the final minute of an extraordinary opening half to turn around 21-8 ahead.

Eight minutes into the second half Ireland had their second try, Henderson burrowing over from a close range ruck and Jackson converting to cut Scotland's lead to 21-15.

Scotland wing Sean Maitland made a try saving tackle on Rob Kearney in the 58th minute but Ireland's incessant pressure told again three minutes later, Jackson bursting over from ten metres and adding the conversion to put his side ahead for the first time 22-21.

The momentum was with Ireland but Laidlaw's two late penalties saved the day for the Scots.