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Parks Helps Scotland Spoil Croke Park Finale

Parks Helps Scotland Spoil Croke Park Finale

RBS man-of-the-match Dan Parks supplied the killer finish as he kicked a 79th minute penalty to drive Scotland to a deserved win in Ireland’s final match at Croke Park.


IRELAND 20 SCOTLAND 23, Croke Park

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Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Brian O’Driscoll, Tommy Bowe; Cons: Jonathan Sexton, Ronan O’Gara; Pens: Jonathan Sexton, Ronan O’Gara
Scotland: Try: Johnnie Beattie; Pens: Dan Parks 5; Drop: Dan Parks

The Match – As It Happened

Ireland lost a Championship match to Scotland for the first time since 2001 as their hopes of securing a fifth Triple Crown in seven years were dashed at Croke Park.

Scotland produced one of their best performances in recent memory, with their out-half Dan Parks coolly slotting a late penalty to seal their first win in Dublin in twelve years and lift them off the bottom of the table.

Parks won his third man-of-the-match award of this year’s RBS 6 Nations with an outstanding display that included 18 points from five penalties and a drop goal.

Johnnie Beattie also scored a rare try for the visitors, while team captain Brian O’Driscoll and Player of the Championship hopeful Tommy Bowe touched down for Ireland.

Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara kicked the rest of the hosts’ points on a disappointing day for Declan Kidney’s men, who put in an error-strewn display that included a malfunctioning lineout.

Ireland twice went close to breaking Scotland’s defensive line early on but a sloppy Bowe pass and a Gordon D’Arcy spill allowed the visitors to clear their lines via a magnificent Parks clearance to touch.

The resulting lineout eventually led to a Scotland free-kick and then a penalty which Parks knocked over from in front of the posts in the sixth minute.

At the other end, Sexton lost the ball in the tackle as some great Ireland offloading almost led to an opening try. The Leinster man made amends in the 11th minute after Scotland’s usually rock solid lineout coughed up possession.

The ball was worked to Sexton on a wrap-around with D’Arcy, and the number 10 burst through the narrowest of gaps before sending the supporting O’Driscoll over for his 39th try for Ireland. Sexton added the conversion for a 7-3 lead.

If the home side expected Scotland to fold, they were in for a rude awakening as their opponents hit back brilliantly four minutes later.

Kelly Brown made the initial break, after a quick turnover near halfway, and influential centre Graeme Morrison carried along the touchline before feeding inside to number 8 Beattie who powered through a couple of tackles and stretched over the line for his third Test try.

Parks missed the toughest of touchline conversions but Scotland still led in what was a cracking game of open, attacking rugby.

Ireland were playing fast and loose, while try-shy Scotland looked as dangerous as they had all Championship.

Both sides were forced into changes in the 27th minute, Ireland bringing on Rob Kearney for the injured Geordan Murphy, while a bloodied Brown – passed fit to play after a clash of heads with England winger Ugo Monye last weekend – was withdrawn for Alan MacDonald.

Ireland were on top for the most part, but Sexton shanked a 45-metre penalty attempt and Scotland responded with their longest spell of possession in the match as their forwards, willed on by skipper Chris Cusiter, clicked into gear.

Brown also returned to the fray and Scotland soon had a close range penalty which Parks converted two minutes before the break.

Brown was then forced off again, with MacDonald returning to the fray. As the Scottish forwards got on top again when making the hard yards, Parks ended the half with a trademark drop goal from 30 metres out.

Leading 14-7 at half-time, Scotland will have been taking nothing for granted after blowing an 18-9 half-time lead when they were cruelly beaten in Wales last month.

Brown was back on the pitch as Sexton kicked off the second half and the out-half missed an early opportunity to cut the deficit, this time from 25 metres.

Parks was having no such difficulty, slotting Scotland 10 points in front after Ireland had failed to release a bulldozing Sean Lamont in the tackle. 

Paul O’Connell and company gained some much-needed momentum through a driving maul, making 25 metres before their opponents eventually collapsed it. Sexton converted a resulting penalty before being replaced by O’Gara as Ireland looked to turn the tide.

Brown and MacDonald had also traded places in the meantime, while Mike Blair came on for Cusiter and Richie Gray was introduced for Jim Hamilton.

Scotland were beginning to make errors, the vocal home support were starting to scent blood, and only magnificent tackling by Andy Robinson’s charges prevented a 55th minute try.

Parks could have once again punished Ireland’s failure to score but his 50-metre penalty dropped wide of the target.

The final 20 minutes of games had been Scotland’s undoing in recent outings and fears of another collapse surfaced when Ireland managed to level the tie with 16 minutes remaining.

After some powerful drives at close quarters, the ball was shipped out to the right through O’Driscoll and D’Arcy for Bowe to squeeze over and score his 14th international try.

O’Gara added a brilliant conversion from the touchline to set up a thrilling climax at 17-17. Scotland, who made two changes in their front row, struck the first blow, Parks arrowing a 30-metre penalty over to restore the visitors’ lead. 

A scrum infringement allowed O’Gara to square things up once more, but a Parks punt paved the way for a final place-kicking chance for the Scots.

He chipped in behind the Irish defence, two minutes from time, and replacement Kearney was penalised for holding onto possession on the ground and Parks stepped up to score from the tightest of angles.

Scotland controlled possession off the restart and frustrated the hosts in the final minute as they stood firm to hand Ireland a fourth defeat in their 14th match at Croke Park. Ireland’s record at the famous Jones’s Road venue reads: played 14, won 9, drew 1 and lost 4. 

TIME LINE: 6 minutes – Scotland penalty: Dan Parks – 0-3; 11 mins – Ireland try: Brian O’Driscoll – 5-3; conversion: Jonathan Sexton – 7-3; 15 mins – Scotland try: Johnnie Beattie – 7-8; conversion: missed by Dan Parks – 7-8; 31 mins – Ireland penalty: missed by Jonathan Sexton – 7-8; 38 mins – Scotland penalty: Dan Parks – 7-11; 40+2 mins – Ireland drop goal: Dan Parks – 7-14; Half-time – Ireland 7 Scotland 14; 43 mins – Ireland penalty: missed by Jonathan Sexton – 7-14; 48 mins – Scotland penalty: Dan Parks – 7-17; 51 mins – Ireland penalty: Jonathan Sexton – 10-17; 58 mins – Scotland penalty: missed by Dan Parks – 10-17; 64 mins – Ireland try: Tommy Bowe – 15-17; conversion: Ronan O’Gara – 17-17; 74 mins – Scotland penalty: Dan Parks – 17-20; 76 mins – Ireland penalty: Ronan O’Gara – 20-20; 79 mins – Scotland penalty: Dan Parks – 20-23; Full-time – Ireland 20 Scotland 23

IRELAND: Geordan Murphy; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls; Jonathan Sexton, Tomas O’Leary; Cian Healy, Rory Best, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferris, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements used: Rob Kearney for Murphy (27 mins), Ronan O’Gara for Sexton (52), Tony Buckley for Hayes (80). Not used: Sean Cronin, Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan.

SCOTLAND: Hugo Southwell; Sean Lamont, Nick De Luca, Graeme Morrison, Max Evans; Dan Parks, Chris Cusiter (capt); Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Jim Hamilton, Alastair Kellock, Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie.

Replacements used: Alan MacDonald for Brown (27-34 mins, blood sub), Alan MacDonald for Brown (39-half-time, blood sub), Alan MacDonald for Brown (51-58, blood sub), Mike Blair for Cusiter, Richie Gray for Hamilton (both 52), Alasdair Dickinson for Jacobsen (66), Scott Lawson for Ford (72), Simon Danielli for Lamont (73). Not used: Phil Godman. 

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)