Ireland thrash Scotland to set up All Black showdown, while Boks-France quarterfinal confirmed
Ireland and Springboks emerged from Pool B at Rugby World Cup 2023 to set up quarterfinals against New Zealand and France, respectively.
Ireland 36 (26) Scotland 14 (0)
Ireland flexed their considerable muscles at the Stade de France on Saturday, with another reminder that they are the team to beat at Rugby World Cup 2023, by smashing Scotland 36-14.
As the now familiar strains of the song “Zombie” blared out at the end of the match, it was Scotland who looked like they’d seen the living dead.
They were crushed and now have failed to make it out of the Pool phase at the last two World Cups. Ireland are into familiar territory by making the quarterfinals. Their challenge now is to go further.
Ireland’s clinical dissection of Scotland was frightening for future opponents – in this case the All Blacks in next week’s quarterfinal – as they appear to have no weaknesses.
The comfortable victory means Ireland topped Pool B and will face the All Blacks back at the Stade de France in a week. The Springboks were confirmed as runners-up in the same Pool and will play hosts France in Sunday night’s blockbuster in Saint-Denis.
Ireland will start next week’s quarterfinal against New Zealand as favourites whether they like it or not. The way they simply picked Scotland apart, off the back of their brutal defence, was mightily impressive.
The All Blacks are a better team than Scotland, and there is mental baggage for the Irish to overcome having never gone past the last eight at the World Cup, but an All Black win would be a surprise based on current form.
Ireland have now won their last 17 Tests in a row and 29 of the last 31 they have played. Their last defeat was the first Test of a three-Test series in New Zealand against the All Blacks in July 2022. They rallied to win that series 2-1 and haven’t looked back since.
Scotland threw everything at Ireland in the opening quarter, but couldn’t pierce the Irish Kevlar-like defence. It will take much more intricate attacking skills to break this Irish team down.
Scotland had enough possession, and the stats will show they made far more passes and running metres, but they never broke the Irish line until late in the game when it was over as a contest.
Scotland’s attack was one-dimensional. Flyhalf Finn Russell jinked and feinted, trying to pull strings but which all led down blind alleys occupied by Irish defenders. Without the ball Ireland drifted left and ran, steering Scotland’s willing runners into tight corners.
With the score at 5-0 to Ireland and the match still very much a contest, Scotland took the ball through 18 phases inside Ireland’s 22-metre area and couldn’t break Ireland’s wall. Although it was early in the match, it was a statement.
To single out Irish players is almost impossible, but the usual suspects were again highly visible.
Openside Josh van der Flier was immense at the breakdown, No 8 Caelan Doris patrolled the gain line like an angry orc and centre Bundee Aki never stopped giving Scottish defenders and ball carriers nightmares.
Ireland had already made an earlier statement when magnificent centre Garry Ringrose sliced through the Irish midfield to set up the opening try for left wing James Lowe.
Scotland, coming into the game, needed to beat Ireland by at least eight points and stop them earning a try-scoring bonus point. In minutes, that task became almost impossible.
By halftime, Scotland’s World Cup was all but over, as Ireland scored their fourth try just before the break – a second for fullback Hugo Keenan after lock Iain Henderson had also gone over for the third.
That bonus point confirmed Ireland as group winners and with Johnny Sexton’s third conversion made it 26-0 at the break.
The only way Scotland could advance to the quarterfinals of RWC 2023 when the second half kicked off, was to score at least 47 unanswered second-half points.
It would’ve been easier for the team to go to the moon at that point.
It didn’t get any better after the break as Ireland’s relentless hunger in defence was matched by their smart attacking play that found more holes in Scotland’s fading defence.
Tries for hooker Dan Sheehan and the deserving Ringrose made it six and gave Ireland a 36-0 lead with 25 minutes to go.
Naturally, Ireland tired and they emptied their bench at that time. Scotland were able to score a couple of consolation tries, through replacement hooker Ewan Ashman and scrumhalf Ali Price, to stave off complete humiliation. DM
Ireland – Tries: James Lowe, Hugo Keenan (2), Ian Henderson, Dan Sheehan, Garry Ringrose. Conversions: Johnny Sexton (3).
Scotland – Tries: Ewan Ashman, Ali Price. Conversions: Finn Russell (2).