Robbie Henshaw goes over for Ireland but TMO ruled the try out. [Inpho/Dan Sheridan]

Ireland hold on vs. Scots to retain Six Nations title

Ireland 17; Scotland 13

This hadn’t the luster of back-to-back Grand Slams which Ireland had hoped for but winning a’ Slam followed by a championship was still a great prize for Andy Farrell and his Ireland squad to end the Six Nations season.

Ireland’s overall dominance in 2024 was shown with their table-topping 20 points and a very impressive + 84 points differential; they were trailed by France at 15 (+6), England 14 (-5), Scotland 12 (0), Italy 11 (-34) and Wales 4 (-51).

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Ideally, we would have liked a win in Twickenham instead of a heartbreaking last-second point loss to a Marcus Smith drop goal and ideally we would have liked to put on a show at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon to win in style.

Instead, we fell over the line to victory after allowing Scotland a late converted try which threw the last few minutes into a melting pot which could have conjured up another late, late loss quite easily.  Fortunately we held on by the skin of our teeth and once the final whistle was blown, fans and players realized the enormity of what they had achieved.

Peter O'Mahony lifts the trophy. [Inpho/Dan Sheridan]

Think about it - we had New Zealand on the back foot and camped on their line in the quarter-final of the World Cup before losing by four points; last week we lost out to England at the death. Take those two reverses out of the occasion and we’ve had one positive ride with this team ever since they went down to New Zealand and beat the All Blacks 2-1 in their own backyard.

It is hard to maintain a high trajectory all the time so it is good to see a team win even when not at their best. Saturday was such an occasion and you felt it in the moments before the match when Hugo Keenan pulled up in the warm up to be replaced by Jordan Larmour.

Scotland came as party spoilsports and had little to offer on a consistent basis in attack but they fought like lions to stop us breaching their defense for the 80 minutes.

They struck the lead with two Finn Russell penalties but Dan Sheehan took advantage of an overthrow by the visitors on their  own line to touch down to give us a 10-6 half time lead thanks to a conversion and a penalty by Jack Crowley in that opening 40 minutes.

In truth though, the hosts hadn’t turned up with their “A” game and to their credit they came out for the restart determined to open up their play book and give the capacity crowd some real entertainment.

They got 10 out of 10 for effort but the execution was way off and the accuracy of early season was now a hit and miss affair. We pinned the Scots back and both Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw crossed the lines but were held up by despairing tackles, aided by the TMO decision.

On two particular occasions too we were about to pounce for tries when poor handling by Calvin Nash and sub Garry Ringrose allowed the visitors off the hook once more.

A try still looked inevitable and came when a tapped penalty saw Andrew Porter take advantage of a practice ground move to force a touchdown at the post with Crowley adding the pair of points to put us 17-6 to the good.

It was the sort of occasion though when you knew Ireland were so labored that some reverse was around the corner. And so it proved when Harry Byrne was no sooner on as a sub than he was off on a yellow card for a high tackle on Russell, which fortunately wasn’t upgraded to a red for his head to head confrontation in the tackle.

This numerical advantage allowed Huw Jones to beat several poor attempts at tackle to touch down under the posts and suddenly we were only four points ahead with two minutes remaining.

To their credit the pack took control and allowed the clock to run into the red so that the by now departed skipper Peter O’Mahony could be called forward to collect the championship silverware - a moment he chose to share with Tadhg Furlong, whose father died recently.

O'Mahony didn’t confirm whether we had seen him in the green jersey for the last time but his decision to take time out to consider the proposition plus his body language suggested that the Cork warrior will indeed call time on a star-studded career within the next week or two.

Asked the question on TV after the game he sidestepped the issue. “I have a couple of big decisions to make over the next few weeks with my family. I have a couple of important conversations to have. I'll tell you what, if it is the last one, I'll be a happy man,” said the skipper.

Referring to the season he went on:  “To come back from defeat in the World Cup and come back from last week, it shows the character in the group we have and I'm very grateful to have been a part of it. We’ve put in a lot of hard work in this group, going back to the World Cup, it was tough but it galvanized us. Between our families, the staff, everyone is close. It's a great group. Delighted we could show everyone the respect, and the jersey the respect and win today."

Jamison Gibson-Park was given the man of the match award and also proclaimed how proud he was of the character displayed by the Ireland squad: “It was a good game, with two good teams going at it. They had a Triple Crown on the line and we were going for a Championship, so it was tough going and two good teams were going at it. I suppose our backs were against the wall a little bit. I'm so unbelievably proud of the boys and the whole staff who have stuck together over the last week and managed to gouge out a performance today that we can be proud of."

Ireland: J Larmour; C Nash, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Lowe; J Crowley, J Gibson-Park; A Porter, D Sheehan, T Furlong; J McCarthy, T Beirne, P O'Mahony (capt), J van der Flier,  C Doris Replacements: R Kelleher, C Healy, F Bealham, R Baird, J Conan, C Murray, H Byrne, G Ringrose.