Ireland suffered their first ever defeat to Scotland at Under-18 level after finishing second best to their hosts in Dundee in a match that served as a warm-up for the European Under-18 Championship.
Scotland had performed well against a typically strong England team two weeks ago in Newcastle and were expected to be tough opposition for the Ireland Schools side. In the event, the Scots looked stronger in the scrums and behind the scrum defended tenaciously.
“We are bitterly disappointed with the outcome. There were elements that were simply not good enough. Our lack of ball focus was not good enough and our turnover count was too high,” said Ireland U-18 Schools head coach Noel McNamara, whose charges will have to regroup quickly for the start of the European tournament in Toulouse next Friday.
“Scotland put a lot of pressure on us at the breakdown and we didn't deal with that as well as we should have.”
Yet, Ireland made the best of possible starts with a penalty kick by out-half Bill Johnston immediately after the kick-off. The advantage was soon erased, though, when his opposite number Blair Kinghorn put over a similar three-pointer to level the scores.
The visitors threatened the Scotland defence with clever handling behind the scrum and it was one such move that brought Ireland within range of the Scots line. The attack was stopped but at the expense of a yellow card to the Scotland full-back Saul Melvin-Farr.
From the resultant penalty, Ireland kicked for the corner and then drove the lineout. Scotland, struggling to defend the moving mass of bodies, collapsed the maul and English referee Matthew O'Grady awarded a penalty try. Johnston added the simple conversion kick for a 10-3 lead.
Scotland were playing well in patches and threatened when winger Darcy Graham fielded the ball in defence before cutting through the midfield traffic for a promising strike. But it was Ireland who were looking the more comfortable with ball in hand as they repeatedly tested the Scottish defence. No try resulted but McNamara's youngsters were rewarded with a further attempt at goal. This time, however, Johnston was short of the target.
Just before half-time, Scotland again produced a slicing run, this time from full-back Melvin-Farr but the Irish were able to scramble in defence and what seemed a likely try was prevented, leaving the visitors seven points clear at the interval.
Both sides rung the changes for the second half but it was Scotland who looked the stronger, capitalising on a dynamic start with a drop goal from Kinghorn. Penalty goals by Johnston and Kinghorn brought the scoreline to 13-9 in Ireland's favour, but from then on it was Scotland who took charge.
Firstly, they had a try by flanker Matt Fagerson on the back of a thrust by Robbie Nairn. Kinghorn converted and then a try by Nairn himself, after Melvin-Farr had drawn the defence, sealed the match for the Scots.
Referee: Matthew O'Grady (England)