The concession of a late match-winning try saw Ireland’s opening Rugby World Cup warm-up match end on a disappointing note. Their attack failed to fire on the day, as Leo Cullen and Declan Kidney readily admitted afterwards.
Try-scoring chances were few and fair between during this well-contested encounter in Edinburgh, with the defining moment coming late on when Ruaridh Jackson and Nick De Luca combined to put Joe Ansbro away for the game’s only try.
Ireland had led on two occasions through the right boot of Jonathan Sexton, who missed a long-range penalty with eight minutes remaining.
It was not the result that Leo Cullen wanted as Ireland’s 100th Test captain. The big lock had a huge influence, particularly in a rock-solid defensive performance in the first half, and there were some pleasing aspects for this much-changed side to draw on.
But the concession of the try cast a shadow over what went on before it, with Cullen stating: “It was pretty frustrating at the end. We defended pretty well, the attitude was pretty good. We looked reasonably comfortable.
“Guys’ willingness to work off the ball in defence was good, but our attack shape let us down. We couldn’t really hold onto the ball for long enough phases.
“We ended up defending for too long. It was disappointing giving a try off first phase right at the end.
“It’s very early in the season and there are always going to be positives and negatives. It was what it was today, but it was very disappointing the way it finished.”
Debutants Mike McCarthy and Felix Jones both made ‘good contributions’ according to head coach Declan Kidney who, like Cullen, spoke of the need to improve the attack for next Saturday’s match against France.
Ireland threatened the Scottish defensive line from deep, with wingers Luke Fitzgerald and Andrew Trimble showing some spark, and the forwards also carried well in the lead up to Sexton’s opening penalty.
But the mostly first choice Scotland side thwarted Ireland’s advances, and a couple of individual errors spoilt promising moves for the much-changed men in green.
Analysing the game afterwards, Kidney said: “We’re disappointed conceding a score with two minutes to go that cost us the result.
“We’ll sit down and have a look as to what positives we have got out of it, but you play to win and we came out second.
“There will be (positive) things. You’ve got the obvious ones of game-time, a few different combinations, but I wouldn’t be trying to hide the result on the back of coming up with a whole lot of things, saying, ‘Oh, it’s great we got this out of it’. We lost the match. That’s it.
“Our attack didn’t take enough pressure off our defence for long periods of time. It held up pretty well, but in attack we need to take a look at hanging on to the ball a bit longer.”
Next up for Kidney’s charges are the back-to-back Tests against France, with a midweek game against Connacht at Donnybrook also thrown into the mix.
The Corkman repeated his desire to get ‘as many players playing as possible’ in the coming weeks, whether that is in the green of Ireland or with their respective provinces in pre-season friendlies.
It is hoped that the run of five matches for the Irish squad will have them at their sharpest for the Rugby World Cup, with the opening pool fixture against the USA drawing ever closer.
Saturday’s opponents Scotland are only playing two competitive games before they head to New Zealand. Commenting on the contrast in pre-tournament schedules, Kidney said: “It’s a difficult one to execute well (the five-match schedule).
“It’s high work-rate, but we’ll get better as the games go on. We’ve been in this before.
“Two games is logical, but I’d like to think what we’re doing is logical. Different people will make up their own minds.
“For me, what we have is right for us. I’m sure Andy (Robinson) has got what is right for Scotland, so I don’t think there are any parallels to be drawn.”