Ireland crush Scotland and win Six Nations title

Jacob Stockdale scores for Ireland in Dublin. Photo: Reuters
Jacob Stockdale scores for Ireland in Dublin. Photo: Reuters

Two tries by Jacob Stockdale set up Ireland's dominant 28-8 victory over Scotland on Saturday which a few hours later proved to be enough for them to clinch the Six Nations title.

Ireland's 11th successive win, crucially with a four-try bonus point, turned the screws on England who knew they would have to beat France with a bonus point to keep the title race alive for the final weekend.

England's 22-16 defeat in Paris meant Ireland's celebrations could begin, although Joe Schmidt's side will go to Twickenham next weekend with only their third ever grand slam tantalisingly within reach.

"It's special because we won it at home," Schmidt said. "It's bizarre again because we won it watching a game over which we didn’t have any control over but we managed to control enough of the things that we were involved with to get the 19 points on the table that we needed.

"It was a great performance for France. They made it really tough for England to get any fluidity. We'll have a look at England now and try to strike out again next week."

A day that ended so joyously for the Irish had begun nervously as Scotland, buoyed by a victory over England last time out, matched their hosts for much of a high-tempo first half.

Ulster flyer Stockdale went over twice, however, the second on the stroke of halftime as Ireland went in 14-3 ahead.

Halfback Conor Murray wriggled over early in the second half to widen Ireland's advantage but it was replacement Sean Cronin's try in the 68th minute that drew the biggest cheers as it secured the bonus point.

Ireland will be wary of their visit to Twickenham, especially as it was they who denied England the grand slam last season in identical circumstances.

"It's been in the back of our minds and it's something you always dream of," Murray said of the possibility of emulating the 1948 and 2009 feats.

"It's taken a lot of hard work to get to this point."

Scotland showed glimpses of the form that saw them beat England in the previous round of matches but left too many points out on the field through sloppy passing and poor decision-making.

They were deep into Ireland territory and leading 3-0 through Greig Laidlaw's penalty when they offered the hosts the first of several gifts during the afternoon.

EMPTY TURF

Centre Peter Horne's pass was careless and Stockdale intercepted before scorching across acres of empty turf to score under the posts with Johnny Sexton converting.

Scotland wasted a glorious chance to score when Huw Jones chipped over Keith Earls, picked up and burst clear with Stuart Hogg inside. A simple pass would have resulted in a Hogg try but Jones made a mess of it and the chance went begging.

Ireland looked nervous but Scotland failed to capitalise on promising positions and Stockdale punished them again when Garry Ringrose put him in for his sixth try of the tournament, the first Irish player to deliver a half dozen in a single campaign.

When Murray scored and Sexton converted to put Ireland 21-3 ahead in the 46th minute, victory looked assured and it was all about taking the bonus point.

Blair Kinghorn's try did narrow the lead to 21-8 with a well-worked try in the 51st minute, but Ireland were simply more clinical and there was a sense of elation when a lineout move in the corner resulted in Cronin, almost on his knees, going over.

Schmidt said the focus was now on the grand slam.

"Have they earned it? I really think they have. They've done everything that you can possibly do," he said of his team.

"They've beaten every tier one nation, they've put 11 consecutive test match wins together, more than we've done before. They have fought out incredibly tough finishes.

"But you get nothing at the start of the game next week at Twickenham, you have to start all over again and win it and these players will try to do that." 

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