SCOTLAND interim head coach Scott Johnson watched his team do the rugby equivalent of the rope-a-dope then admitted it will not do if the team are to mount a serious RBS 6 Nations title challenge.
The Dark Blues barely had a sniff against Ireland in an awful first-half display at Murrayfield but somehow went in at the break a mere three points down.
Ireland did add five more with Craig Gilroy’s try three minutes into the second period but that concession was enough to finally shake the home side from their lethargy.
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Having surrendered 78 per cent of the possession and 80 per cent of the territory to Declan Kidney’s men in the first 40 minutes, they responded in spectacular fashion to force themselves further up the pitch and into kicking territory.
And it paid crucial dividends as scrum-half Greig Laidlaw slotted over four perfect penalties to confirm a stunning 12-8 win.
Johnson was happy with the victory – Scotland’s first over Ireland since 2001 – but admitted improvements are urgently required ahead of Wales in a fortnight.
He said: “We have got to be honest and say that that wasn’t perfect from us.
“At half-time I felt like we must have watched Ali and Foreman or something. We were lulling them into some false sense of security. My neck was getting sore looking down to one end of the pitch.
‘‘It’s a funny game. I’ve played in games when I’ve been on the other side. It puts a bit of pressure on the team that should be in front. We went in at 3-0 down and I would have taken that.
‘‘So we took it and we took our chances. We will enjoy the next 24 hours but we will also acknowledge that we have got to work on a few things.’’ Scotland captain Kelly Brown played as crucial a part as any of his team-mates as he cajoled a side under the cosh into a winning position.
But, with an eye on the stats that showed even at full-time, the Scots had managed just 29 per cent of the possession and were forced into 128 tackles just to keep the Irish at bay, he also was under no illusions about their standard of performance.
“We are really happy to get the win but we know we have to improve,’’ he said. “Because if we play like that in two weeks’ time against Wales, then we will not win that game.’’ The Scots had gone into the game looking to rid themselves of another nagging problem having not managed back-to-back wins in the same 12 years since they had last toppled the Irish.
With that hoodoo also now broken following their earlier win over Italy, Johnson believes his side have positioned themselves well for a title shoot-out.
The coach, whose side remain joint-top try scorers with Wales, said: “I think we are in it, yeah. There’s no doubt we can compete. We have shown that once we get things right, we can hurt sides with the ball.
“But unfortunately in the first three games we have lost possession and we have lost territory. We have got to get a combination of both back into our game.
Scotland’s Kelly Brown celebrates beating Ireland
“If we get that right we have shown we can score tries against quality sides and we have shown we can defend like hell.’’ Ireland spurned two tricky chances to kick for goal in the first half, instead opting for touch and an attacking line-out, and captain Jamie Heaslip stood by his calls.
“They were the right decisions given the momentum of the game at those points,’’ he said.
“We were applying a lot of pressure. Some kicking opportunities for the post we took and on the other ones it was better to go for the corner.
“We weren’t accurate with our opportunities and Scotland took theirs, which is disappointing.
‘‘We made a good few line breaks and applied pressure, but maybe we weren’t accurate enough.
‘‘In the second half we hit the ground running with the try. We knew Scotland could stay in games with very little possession. We felt confident and were focused in what we had to do. Confidence hasn’t become an issue. In the second half we were good with the ball in hand. It was another close game and missed opportunity.’’ Debutant Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson missed two penalties and a conversion, but coach Declan Kidney refused to blame the 21-year-old “Paddy’s general play was good. He helped us get a few line breaks and his kicks down the line put us in a good field position,’’ Kidney said.