Record-Breaking Ireland Run Amok; Scotland Swamped as Eager O'Driscoll Rewrites 50 Years of History

By Aitcheson, Niall | Daily Mail (London), February 17, 2003 | Go to article overview

Record-Breaking Ireland Run Amok; Scotland Swamped as Eager O'Driscoll Rewrites 50 Years of History


Aitcheson, Niall, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: NIALL AITCHESON

MIDFIELD maestro Brian O'Driscoll led Scotland's bewildered players on yet another merry dance as Ireland finally laid their Murrayfield hoodoo to rest in record fashion.

Like last year, when he broke Scottish hearts with a sparkling hat- trick at Lansdowne Road, there was simply no stopping the quicksilver Lions centre, whose penetrative running spurred the visitors to a comprehensive victory.

Ireland ' s biggest win in Edinburgh easily surpassed the 28-6 mark set back in 1953 and could have been even more embarrassing for Ian McGeechan's shambolic team, who produced their poorest performance since losing to Italy three years ago.

On this evidence, they will have to improve beyond all recognition to prevent the revitalised Italians All right for some: David Humphreys seals victory with Ireland's third try but Glenn Metcalfe's promising break, right, came to nothing from claiming their first success in Scotland next month.

McGeechan's last Six Nations campaign as national coach is already at risk of going belly up, with the veteran coach facing the uneviable task of restoring order and confidence ahead of Sunday's daunting trip to Paris, when a French backlash after Saturday's Twickenham defeat is inevitable.

It was the continued absence of a cutting edge to their play, never mind the overwhelming margin against them on the scoreboard, that will fill Scotland's supporters with trepidation at the start of World Cup year. While their forwards were out-muscled and out- thought, their ponderous, fumbling backs were put through the ringer by the superior pace and class of Irish captain O'Driscoll, who had a hand in two of his side's three tries.

After seeing off world champions Australia in convincing fashion at Lansdowne Road last autumn, Ireland were chasing a record seventh consecutive international win. Scotland, their tails up on the back of an inspired victory over the Springboks, were looking to demonstrate that this was not another of the false dawns that have peppered McGeechan's second spell in charge.

The physical prowess of the Scottish pack in beating the South Africans at their own power game had also been the key to their recent Murrayfield stranglehold over the Irish. In response, the visitors added steel to their back row in the shape of a rejuvenated Victor Costello.

Costello, a former Olympic shot-putter, was making his first championship appearance in four years. Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan reckoned the 32- year- old ' s strength on the drive in tandem with another powerful ball-carrier, Anthony Foley, would provide the X-factor needed to win up front.

He reckoned right, as the Scottish scrum spent most of the afternoon slewing sideways and backwards around the pitch.

Reggie Corrigan had Scotland's rookie tighthead Bruce Douglas on the rack from the word go.

Budge Pountney's replacement on the openside flank, Andrew Mower, went into the game on a high of two man- of- the- match displays for Newcastle. But he, too, was put firmly in the shade by his opposite number. Keith Gleeson's superb anticipation at the tail played havoc with the Scottish lineout, and he must have pushed O'Driscoll close for the best player on view.

The portents, however, had looked anything but ominous for the Scots as they laid siege to the Irish line in the opening minutes.

Indeed, within 20 seconds, they could and should have grabbed a try. Shane Horgan ran into trouble fielding Gordon Ross' kick-off and Denis Hickie ' s attempted clearance was deflected by a posse of Scottish forwards onto the crossbar. Stuart Grimes took the catch behind the posts but knocked on in a collision with team-mate Brendan Laney and Gleeson before he could apply the finishing touch.

As Irish team manager Brian O'Brien later admitted: 'When I saw that, I knew the gods were smiling on us today. …

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