Scotland and Ireland stay alive in Six Nations

by AFP

Scotland ended a decade of Welsh hurt and an Ireland side inspired by Johnny Sexton beat France as they each kept their Six Nations title hopes alive on Saturday.

The Scots' 29-13 success at Murrayfield saw them come from 13-9 down at half-time and end a run of nine successive defeats by Wales, with Vern Cotter's men scoring 20 unanswered points after the break.

Second-half tries from wings Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser saw Scotland pull clear, with flyhalf Finn Russell landing all seven of his goal-kicks for a 19-point haul in place of injured first-choice kicker and captain Greig Laidlaw.

Table-toppers Ireland's 19-9 win over France may have been less spectacular, featuring just the one try from scrumhalf Conor Murray, but the match saw fit-again Ireland flyhalf Sexton mark his return from injury with an 11-point salvo.

With reigning champions England the only side to have won their opening two fixtures and hosting a fragile Italy at Twickenham on Sunday, the other four sides in the tournament knew they had to win on Saturday to "stay alive", in the words of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

Scotland did that in some style as they beat Wales for the first time since 2007.

"We set out to win the game but at halftime we weren't particularly well placed to do that," said Scotland coach Cotter.

"We decided we could influence the outcome if we did a few things. I'm very proud of that response."

Next up for Scotland is a clash against old foes England at Twickenham, where they haven't beaten their rivals since 1983.

Nevertheless, stand-in skipper John Barclay said wins over Ireland and now Wales had made the team"believe we can beat anyone".

Wales coach Rob Howley admitted his side's title hopes were over, with Saturday's reverse coming straight after a 21-16 defeat by England last time out.

"Our second-half performance wasn't good enough," Howley told the BBC.

"We lacked possession and when we got it, Scotland were hugely effective in the contact area, slowing up our ball or getting turnovers.

"Losing today, our Championship is over," the former Wales and British and Irish Lions scrumhalf added.

In Dublin, the sight of Murray and Sexton pulling the strings would have encouraged British and Irish Lions chiefs ahead of this year's tour of New Zealand and it certainly delighted Schmidt, who oversaw Ireland's first win over his native All Blacks in October.

"Johnny (Sexton) really controlled the game well and he didn't shirk the physical stuff either," Schmidt said.

"It was good to see Conor Murray on song as well."

French centre Gael Fickou said his side had squandered chances to grab victory.

"It is disappointing, we are not far away, we did a good job but we still have a few details to make the difference,"he said.

"We have been able to test ourselves against a great team from Ireland but we have to win if we want to aspire to play at the highest level."


Scotland 29

Tries – Seymour (43), Visser (66); 
Conversions – Russell (44, 67); 
Penalties - Russell (6, 29, 40, 54, 72)
Wales 13
Try – LiamWilliams (23); 
Conversion – Halfpenny (24); 
Penalties – Halfpenny (11, 33)

Ireland 19

Try - Murray (30); 
Conversion - Sexton (32); 
Penalties - Sexton (46, 55), Jackson (76); 
Drop-Goal - Sexton (50)

France 9
Penalties - Lopez (12, 19, 74)