Scotland tackle their way to victory
REPORT: A dogged defensive display, coupled with excellent finishing, ensured Scotland got their Six Nations campaign off to the perfect start with a 27-22 victory over Ireland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Scots stunned the pre-Championship favourites with three tries in the opening 28 minutes - two by dazzling fullback Stuart Hogg and by centre Alex Dunbar's ingenious intervention in a line-out - but then saw their 21-5 lead disappear.
Wing Keith Earls had already scored one try for Ireland and two more in the second half - by lock Iain Henderson and flyhalf Paddy Jackson - put Ireland ahead 22-21.
With the momentum against them, though, the Scots dug deep and Gloucester scrumhalf 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 flyhalf 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 fullback'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 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.
Ireland had their second try eight minutes into the second half. 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 10 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.
Man of the match: Ireland's pack of forwards were in control of the set pieces and bossed the second half while Conor Murray set the tempo to claw his side back. Garry Ringrose and Keith Earls caused a few headaches. The entire Scottish side deserves a mention for what they produced on defence, hanging onto more than 200 tackles in the 80 minutes. Our nod though, goes to Stuart Hogg as the fullback showed his scoring ability to grab two well-taken tries.
Moment of the match: Alex Dunbar's try was a moment of genius as the centre stood in a line-out but there was a moment in the second half that gets our nod. Ireland were in the ascendancy and on the attack. Rob Kearney seemed to be making his way to the try-line but Sean Maitland's cover defence bundled the Irish fullback into touch to ensure Ireland remained behind on the scoreboard.
Villain of the match: The match was tough and physical but remained well within the limits of the law.
Tries: Hogg 2, Dunbar
Cons: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Laidlaw 2
Tries: Earls, Henderson, Jackson
Cons: Jackson 2
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 John Barclay, 21 Ali Price, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Christiaan Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Tommy Bowe.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com