...The scene at Dubarry Park in Athlone on Friday night...
The Ireland Under-21s fell to their third straight defeat of the championship as Scottish captain David Blair provided the telling blow in an entertaining clash at Dubarry Park.
UNDER-21 6 NATIONS: Friday, March 10
IRELAND U-21 21 SCOTLAND U-21 24, Dubarry Park (Att: 2,500)
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Fergus McFadden, Fionn Carr; Con: Jonathan Sexton; Pens: Sexton 3
Scotland: Tries: David Young, David Blair; Con: Blair; Pens: Blair 4
The Scottish Under-21s finally opened their win account in this season's U-21 6 Nations Championship as out-half and skipper Blair provided the inspiration in Athlone.
The younger brother of Scottish scrum half Mike Blair converted his own 72nd-minute try to see the Scots retake the lead and hold on for a famous win over Mark McDermott's Ireland. Having beaten Ireland only once at the Under-21 grade - that being last year's 16-8 success at Falkirk Stadium - the victory at Dubarry Park was made all the sweeter.
Iain Paxton's Scots were on the back foot for much of the opening quarter as the hosts, beaten by both France and Wales in their last two outings, sought retribution. They looked ideally placed to end their drought when recalled fly half Jonathan Sexton landed three early penalties to help them roar into a 9-0 lead. A yellow card for Scottish centre Iain Kennedy after 23 minutes aided Ireland's cause, but crucially, Ireland failed to garner a try with the visitors down to 14 men.
A brace of penalties from Blair got the Scots off the mark and with Irish prop Callum Black in the sin bin for pulling down a Scottish maul, Paxton's youngsters struck for a sucker punch try, five minutes into injury-time. Leicester Tigers prop David Young, who was incidentally born in Belfast, plunged over after a concerted series of drives from the Scots. Blair missed the conversion, but his side still had a 11-9 lead to take into the second half.
Blair added his third penalty before a neat backline move on 47 minutes saw UCD centre Fergus McFadden slalom through for Ireland's opening try. Sexton converted for 16-14. The nip and tuck nature of what was an entertaining game continued when Blair booted his fourth penalty on 58 minutes. However, seconds later, a lightning Irish attack saw full back Fionn Carr blaze through for a try in the corner, and what looked like the telling blow. Sexton missed the conversion, and although on top for much on the remaining quarter, Ireland still looked a little shaky at 21-17 in front - a sin-binning for out-half Sexton did not help.
The St. Mary's man was found guilty of killing the ball. Blair then dramatically won it for his side when he dummied his opposite number Paul Marshall and cut through near the posts for the vital try that saw Ireland slip to their third defeat of the campaign.
McDermott's charges face a buoyant England side, who won in France on Saturday, beating the hosts 30-17 at Perigueux, next Friday night (March 17) in Worcester (kick-off 8.00pm). England, coached by Jim Mallinder, are bidding for an Under-21 Grand Slam.
IRELAND U-21: Fionn Carr (Blackrock College); Peter Durcan (Galwegians), Fergus McFadden (UCD), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins), Matthew Williams (Bristol Shoguns/Hartpury College); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College), Paul Marshall (Ballynahinch); Callum Black (Worcester Warriors/Hartpury College), Stuart Philpott (Belfast Harlequins) (capt), Paul Doran-Jones (Dublin University), Devin Toner (Lansdowne), Daniel Touhy (Gloucester/Hartpury College), Ross Noonan (UCC), Ejike Uzoigwe (Hartpury College), Sean O'Brien (UCD).
Replacements used: Darragh Hurley (UCC) for Noonan (41-46 mins), David McGowan (Buccaneers) for Tuohy (49 mins), Conan Doyle (Garryowen) for McFadden (70), Tom Gleeson (Cork Constitution) for Cave (73). Not used: Sean Cronin (Shannon), Billy Holland (UCC), Duncan Williams (UCC).
SCOTLAND U-21: Ben Addison (Stirling County and Central Institute of Sport); Cameron Johnston (Newcastle Falcons), Ben Cairns (Edinburgh Gunners, Currie and Scottish Institute of Sport), Iain Kennedy (Glasgow Warriors, Glasgow Hawks and West of Scotland Institute of Sport), Robert Cairns (Boroughmuir); David Blair (Sale Sharks) (capt), Greig Laidlaw (Jed-Forest); Ryan Grant (The Army), Sean Crombie (Aberdeen GSFP and Grampian Institute of Sport), David Young (Leicester Tigers), James Eddie (Glasgow Warriors, Ayr and West of Scotland Institute of Sport), Ian Nimmo (Leicester Tigers), John Barclay (Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Institute of Sport), John Beattie (Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Institute of Sport), Alan MacDonald (Edinburgh Gunners and Scottish Institute of Sport).
Replacements used: Kyle Traynor (Edinburgh Gunners, Boroughmuir and East of Scotland Institute of Sport) for Grant (50 mins), Stephen Biggart (Glasgow Hawks) for Laidlaw (65), James King (Border Reivers) for R Cairns (70), Scott Newlands (Heriot's and East of Scotland Institute of Sport) for Barclay (78). Not used: Andrew Reekie (Currie), Calum Forester (GHA and West of Scotland Institute of Sport), Chris Dunlop (Durham University).
Sin Bin: I Kennedy (Scotland) (23 mins), C Black (Ireland) (40+4), J Sexton (Ireland) (70)
Referee: Andrew Small (England)