Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has enjoyed a winning start to his first Six Nations campaign as the Irish eventually eased to a 28-6 win over a one dimensional Scotland at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.
Schmidt, who replaced Declan Kidney last year after the latter was sacked following a disappointing Six Nations, saw his side turn a shaky first-half performance which saw them lead 11-3 into a more impressive one in the second-half.
It will give them some grounds for confidence ahead of next Saturday’s home game against two-time defending champions Wales.
The Irish, who had been hit by the withdrawal just before the match of captain Paul O’Connell who picked up a chest infection, ran in three tries through Andrew Trimble, man of the mmatch Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney, winning his 50th cap.
Kearney, scoring in his second successive Test having scored in the epic defeat by the All Blacks last November, said that the Irish would have to raise their game if they were to beat the Welsh next Saturday, though, they were the only side to beat them last year.
“It is nice to get off to a winning start and very happy about that,” he said.
“However, we are under no illusions at the massive challenge that awaits us in six days. They are going for three in a row (Six Nations titles) which their coach Warren Gatland doesn’t stop telling everyone.”
Kearney said the fact Gatland dropped icon Brian O’Driscoll — who won a record Irish 129th cap on Sunday — from the final British and Irish Lions test against Australia last summer would only serve to heat up the atmosphere.
“Yes, I think it weill spice it up,” he smiled.
It was Ireland who opened the scores on 13 minutes with a Jonathan Sexton penalty.
Scotland continued to attack the Irish line and that effort was rewarded on 19 minutes when Greig Laidlaw levelled the scores with a penalty after Ireland were penalised at the breakdown
On 21 minutes Scotland were penalised for going offside at the lineout and Sexton slotted over his second penalty of the afternoon.
Scotland No8 David Denton went close to crossing the Irish line on 29 minutes when he broke from the scrum inside the Irish 22.
However, his opposite number Heaslip was alert to the threat and with some help from his teammates managed to bundle Denton into touch.
A stroke of individual brilliance by Ireland outhalf Sexton saw him dummy from deep inside his own half then step through the Scotland defence.
The Racing Metro man sprinted up the pitch before releasing Heaslip who was powering down the near touchline.
Despite touching down over the line the score was not given as his foot was marginally in touch before grounding the ball
Ireland secured the first try of the afternoon when the forwards set the platform from a lineout maul for the backs to attack.
Quick hands saw the ball worked along the backline to Andrew Trimble who made no mistake finishing off a fine Irish attack. Sexton was unable to add the conversion.
Scotland got off to a positive start in the second half when Laidlaw added a second penalty on 42 minutes.
However, Ireland responded when they drove from an attacking 5 metre lineout over the top of the Scotland defence and across the line.
It was skipper Heaslip at the base of the maul who touched down. Sexton added the conversion.
A Sexton penalty on 56 minutes all but kicked Ireland out of sight after Scotland lock Jim Hamilton was penalised at the breakdown.
Rob Kearney showed remarkable strength to shove his way past the Scotland defence and over the line finishing off an excellent piece of play.
Sexton added the conversion and despite both sides emptying their benches, the game was beyond the visitors by this stage and it was Ireland who ran out 28-6 winners at the final whistle.