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‘Irish flatness was not confined to the field’: Media reaction to Ireland’s back-to-back Six Nations titles

Scottish media praise their defensive effort but rue their lack of creativity against Ireland

“Like a tired horse on the long Aintree run-in, Ireland stumbled over the finish line,” wrote David Walsh in the Sunday Times, typical of the international media reaction to Ireland winning the Six Nations over Scotland on Saturday, after a 17-13 victory, which highlighted it was not a classic performance.

Michael Aylwin called it an “anticlimax, for the neutral at least” in the Observer, and an “unconvincing performance”. “Far from motivated to bounce back from that surprise defeat at Twickenham, they seemed disoriented by it,” wrote Aylwin.

“Irish flatness was not confined to the field. The faithful in the stadium were just as subdued in the first half, but crowds have a symbiotic relationship with their team. Ireland duly upped the pace at the start of the ­second period – and we had our inferno again.”

He wrote though that Ireland “had done enough. Champion teams always do.”

Scotland were praised in their media for being resilient and great defensively, although pundit Johnnie Beattie said they paid the price for not being creative enough on the ball.

“Their scramble defence on their tryline was phenomenal ... Andy Christie, [Grant] Gilchrist, saving two or three tries. But ultimately, when you give away 58 per cent possession and 62 per cent of territory, and you allow Ireland 22 visits to your 22, it’s going to be a long day at the office.”

Graham Bean in the Scotsman said it was an encouraging performance, where they matched the world’s second best side blow for blow, with Andy Christie singled out for special praise as the “game’s outstanding player” and the flanker a “dynamic force of nature”.

Mark Palmer in the Scotland Sunday Times wrote Scotland had put “some pride back in the jersey; with some fresh ballast for Gregor Townsend’s case as he battles to prove he is still the man to take Scotland forward.

“A week on from the rabble they became in Rome, this was so much better, and so much punchier, on so many different levels.”

He said, however, the landmark results “served to cast the bigger picture in an even more frustrating light”.

“They show clear strides over the last seven years, but any time push has come to shove, Scotland have been elbowed out.”

Colin Gregor on BBC Scotland was not impressed by Townsend’s positivity after the game.

“You just want him to be disappointed!” he told BBC Radio Scotland. “It’s still a loss. Is he proud because he was expecting to get cuffed? I can understand why he’s saying it, but is that the benchmark? Just to give them a game?

“That wasn’t a good Ireland team. That wasn’t a good Scotland performance. Yes, there was backs-against-the-wall defence, but the basic errors in attack, the things that were in their control they didn’t do all that well. The over-riding sense for me is still frustration. Their attack needs a whole heap of work.”

L’Équipe wrote of Ireland’s difficulties against Scotland but still they are on the top of Europe for the second time in a row and according to Richard Escot “quite frankly, on the jubilant streets of Temple Bar, that was the least of their concerns.”

David Walsh concluded his piece in the Sunday Times on a positive note, by focusing on the great days of Irish rugby, writing “What comes next won’t be as good. How could it be? Two grand slams, three championships and a 2-1 series victory in New Zealand all in the past seven years. No other collection of Ireland rugby players came near.”

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