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Ireland keep 6 Nations trophy after routing Scotland 40-10

March 21, 2015

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — It took a record-equalling 40-10 win over Scotland for Ireland to win consecutive Six Nations championships on Saturday for the first time since 1949.

It also relied on France spiking England’s title aspirations by scoring 35 points, and limiting the English to 55 at Twickenham in the final match.

England had to win by 26, and fell six short. It’s the smallest win on points difference since 2007, when France pipped Ireland by four.

Ireland stayed at Murrayfield to watch the drama, and at the final whistle came out onto the field in front of thousands of supporters and danced in delight. Captain Paul O’Connell got to raise the trophy in spotlights.

“To win a championship any year is fantastic,” O’Connell said. “I’ve spent a lot of years in close calls, and it’s been a great eight weeks.

“We’d be very proud of what we’ve done in the last eight weeks, in terms of how we’ve addressed certain things in our performance, in attack, defense, and our resolve to come out and produce a good performance like that after losing last week.”

Ireland was on for a rare Grand Slam until it was stopped in its tracks last week by Wales, 23-16. Coach Joe Schmidt said the players were despondent on Monday and Tuesday, but gathered their focus with a championship still on the line.

“For us, it’s a championship that we’ll probably have some regrets about, last week,” Schmidt said. “But last week’s second-half performance did set us up, and it was quite similar to our second-half performance this week.”

Ireland was put under pressure to rack up a big score after Wales destroyed Italy 61-20 in Rome earlier to go top of the table with a significant lead on points difference.

But the Irish rose to the occasion to rub out Wales’ title hopes and hand the wooden spoon to Scotland, which was whitewashed for a third time in 11 years.

Wales’ huge win and Ireland’s traditional difficulties in Scotland made the title requirements seem beyond the Irish.

But a dream start, a try after four minutes, bolstered their confidence, and they led 20-10 by halftime, and kept Scotland pinned back.

When flanker Sean O’Brien crossed for his second try of the game in the 72nd, Ireland had four tries in the match, and doubled its tournament tally.

The margin, tying the 36-6 win in 2003 at Murrayfield for Ireland’s biggest over the Scots, was preserved five minutes from the end when No. 8 Jamie Heaslip knocked the ball out of Stuart Hogg’s hands over the tryline.

Ireland needed tries, and had one just four minutes in. Fullback Rob Kearney charged to the line, O’Brien blew the defenders off him, and left the ball in the sunlight for lock Paul O’Connell to pick up and score. His first try in nine years made O’Connell, at 35, Ireland’s oldest try-scorer beside oldest captain.

Ireland’s second try was less power, and all smarts. Devin Toner snatched a throw-in at the back, and his lifter, O’Brien, took the ball and blasted into space. The Scottish loose forwards anticipated a pass to the backline, so only winger Dougie Fife was around to stop O’Brien, and couldn’t.

That made it 17-3, for six minutes.

A couple of lucky bobbles for Hogg set up a ruck near the Irish tryline. Just when it appeared the ref would blow his whistle, Scotland attacked on the blindside, and Russell had an overlap to score. Laidlaw converted, the gap was cut to seven points, and the crowd broke out into “Flower of Scotland.”

Sexton penalties on each side of halftime gave Ireland more comfort, then Sexton set up try No. 3 with a dummy run which center Jared Payne intersected in a straight line to the posts.

When Scotland replacement prop Geoff Cross was sin-binned in the 56th for repeated ruck infringements by his fellow forwards, Ireland could add only Sexton’s fourth penalty. But that also snuffed out Wales.

Sexton was on the sideline when Ireland worked the phases off an attacking lineout, and O’Brien shrugged off Fife and reached for the tryline over Alasdair Dickinson.

Sexton’s replacement, Ian Madigan, converted, and Ireland had 40 points away against a Tier One side for the first time in eight years.

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