Ireland waltz into World Cup quarter-finals after swatting aside Scotland

Ireland showed their class to top Pool B and book their place in the quarter-finals
©Photo by Julian Finney - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

A ruthless display from Ireland saw them ultimately cruise into the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup as they dispatched Scotland 36-14 to set up a last-eight tie with New Zealand.

First-half tries from James Lowe, Hugo Keenan (2) and Iain Henderson effectively put the contest to bed and Andy Farrell's troops stretched their advantage after the break with Dan Sheehan and Garry Ringrose going over.

A quick-fire double from Ewan Ashman and Ali Price did lift Scotland's spirits but it proved to be too little, too late.

"We just needed to narrow the focus and say we are here to win the game and put in a performance to do that," said skipper Johnny Sexton.

"Very happy with the lads and we're exactly where we want to be now. We won the pool and we are into the quarter-final. We always knew we would most likely play France or New Zealand. There's no easy option there and we have New Zealand.

"It'll be a very tough game and I see they have been talking about revenge already. It'll be a game they want and we need to be ready for it."

In the lead up to this highly anticipated clash at the Stade de France, there was something bullish about Scotland. They knew this could be their stage to upset the applecart but in the end, there was no defying the odds or continuing their World Cup journey.

Instead, it was Gregor Townsend's side packing their bags and heading home following a night of much frustration.

"Well, we conceded a lot of points in the first half which made it very difficult to win the game," Townsend said.

"I think the early try wasn't really a factor because for the next 15, 20 minutes we put some good rugby together but we didn't have any points on the board. But the tries before half-time, which we will obviously look at (and see) if we could have defended better, but I've got to give credit to Ireland. They executed very well and the game went away from us. 

"In the second half, I was really proud of the effort, the display, the intent to not let the score become a bigger one and actually come back and show who we were in attack."

To be drawn alongside Ireland and South Africa in Pool B, it was always going to be a tall order for Scotland to reach the knockouts but after the confidence they had garnered from bonus-point victories against Tonga and Romania, any momentum they had was sucked out of them after just 62 seconds in Paris.

The cohesiveness of Farrell's Ireland makes them a joy to watch and it was on show almost instantly as a stunning turn of pace from Ringrose unlocked the Scottish defence before Mack Hansen delivered the simplest of passes to fellow wing Lowe who dived into the corner.

The opening score was Ireland's quickest-ever at a Rugby World Cup, and despite Scotland producing a strong response in a high-tempo start to the game, Farrell's men displayed their class in defence to repel almost 20 phases of attack.

There was more bad news for Townsend as Blair Kinghorn was replaced after just eight minutes for a HIA - which he subsequently failed following a knock to the head - before Jamie Ritchie also departed due to a shoulder injury, the skipper arriving at the post-match press conference with his arm in a sling.

Scotland looked to be unravelling when Keenan finished off a sublime, first-phase attack for Ireland's second and their gameplan was left in tatters just after the half-hour as Henderson grabbed a third from close range.

Conceding so early - plus the disruption caused by injuries - looked to have taken the wind out of Scottish sails. After having 73 per cent possession and 83 per cent territory at one stage, they were suddenly fending off Ireland pressure. 

Ireland were showing why they are No.1 in the world with their accuracy, efficiency and clinical edge - and there was a fourth try before the break as Keenan latched on to Sexton's looping pass to rub salt into Scottish wounds.

A night where seemingly everything was going wrong for Scotland continued at the start of the second half with tempers boiling over between both sets of players, resulting in Ollie Smith being sent to the sin bin after deliberately tripping Sexton.

It was an act which wouldn't have improved the mood of his coaches, especially when Sheehan flew into the corner for Ireland's fifth on 43 minutes.

Farrell then emptied his bench to highlight Ireland's superb strength in depth, with 'The Fields of Athenry' now the backdrop to the action at the Stade de France.

Scotland's woes continued to stack up as despite numerous personnel changes, Ireland's execution was still on point with Ringrose gobbling up a cross-field kick from substitute Jack Crowley for try number six.

A slow-mo replay of Scotland's players with hands on heads told you all you needed to know with a quarter of the game still remaining. 

But there was something for the Scottish fans to cheer as Ashman was picked out by Sione Tuipulotu to get them on the board before Price stormed over just a minute later to double their tally.

But any hint of a remarkable comeback was shut down by an Ireland side, who are now gearing up for their latest showdown with the All Blacks next Saturday evening as Farrell's men look to reach the semi-finals for the first time in their history.

"I don't think and neither do the team think we have played our best rugby yet," Farrell said.

"We know where we want to go and what we want to achieve. Will we ever go there? I don't know. But it's days like next week that are coming where we need to find out a bit more about ourselves and these lads are more than willing to do that."

The only negatives for Ireland were injury concerns to Lowe [eye], Hansen [calf] and James Ryan [wrist] but the overriding positive was a 17th successive victory, and who would bet against them reaching 20 by the time October draws to a close?


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