Scotland slumped to a disheartening 27-3 defeat against Ireland as the Dark Blues began their Rugby World Cup under a dark cloud.
Despite having designs on the Webb Ellis Cup, and at least targeting a first-ever trip to the semi-finals, while their opponents are just concentrating on getting out of the group, Ireland were expected to be severely tested by their fellow home nation.
But it was a one-sided affair from the start as Ireland’s ferocious forwards dominated the first half, while staunch defence kept Scotland under control as they improved after the break.
James Ryan, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong barged over for first-half scores, with Andrew Conway crossing for a bonus point try in a second half that marked by a downpour. For the Scots, a sole Greig Laidlaw penalty was a paltry return from a game expected to be much more of a contest.
Here is how we rated the Scotland players:
Allan Dell 7: Also part of the front row that tried to stem Ireland’s flow, making 12 tackles.
Stuart McInally 7: Captain led from front, or tried to. Embarked on 12 runs, only Hogg made more, and tackled like a demon (10). Looked visibly dejected.
Willem Nel 7: Ferocious on the back foot as he made 16 tackles – not missing one. No-one came close.
Grant Gilchrist 3: Two missed tackles and conceded a turnover, not a good day at the office.
Jonny Gray 6: Tackling machine, making 11/11, and the go-to man in the lineout. Beat a man but fell foul of impressive Irish pack.
John Barclay 4: Dropped the ball as Scotland had finally made inroads into Ireland and were camped in the shadow of their posts. Edinburgh No8 has had better games.
Hamish Watson 5: Lost to a serious leg injury. Appeared in tears as he was wheeled off for what looks likely his first and last involvement at the World Cup.
Ryan Wilson 3: Dropped a high punt as conditions worsened. It got worse for Wilson as Ireland scored from it. Three handling errors in total. Woeful.
Greig Laidlaw 4: Visibly frustrated as he tried to cajole his team-mates. Booted side’s only points. Made significantly more passes (64) than anyone else, but offered little.
Finn Russell 5: Did well to deliver pass to Maitland – that led to penalty – before being obliterated by Aki. Tried his best to spark a suffocated Scotland attack, came to life and showed flashes of brilliance in second half.
Sean Maitland 7: Always looked one of the players most likely to deliver. Good driving run to start second half. Made second most metres (49), but missed two of three tackles.
Sam Johnson 5: Try-saving tackle on Stockdale in first half, otherwise it would have been game over after 30 minutes. Frustrated going forward.
Duncan Taylor 7: Difficult to judge as he made errors but showed more heart than anyone else. Excellent rip at ruck showed he was up for the fight. Always looked to carry, let down once by a knock on, one of three turnovers. Ten tackles.
Tommy Seymour 4: Anonymous, despite making third most metres (25) via three runs and beating one defender. Overawed.
Stuart Hogg 7: Had pace to beat Conway easily, won a turnover to alleviate pressure. Always darting around trying to spark the Scots, no other player on the field made more runs (16).
Fraser Brown 6: Where was he for Conway’s try? Left blindside open as winger strolled over.
Darcy Graham 6: Livewire was thrown on to inject some life into his side, but it was too late.
Blade Thomson 6: New Zealand-born utility man got going with five carries and weighed in with seven tackles, missing none.
Simon Berghan 6: Two turnovers conceded in his 28 minutes on the pitch.
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