Nigel Carolan’s men survived a late onslaught from Scotland to pick up their second win of the competition ahead of their date with New Zealand on Wednesday with a place in the semi-finals on the line.
Last year’s semi-finalists saw off a seven-minute barrage in their own 22 at the start of the match, helped in part as Scotland’s handling errors began when tighthead prop Zander Fagerson lost control of the ball near the tryline.
As with their first match against Argentina, Ireland endured a tough battle and could easily have lost had Scotland not suffered with contagious handling errors at key moments throughout the contest.
Content to build from deep, Ireland were adept at exploiting a disorganised Scottish defence as they built a 15-0 lead inside the opening half and hour.
First UCD centre Garry Ringrose glided through the Scotland midfield after a solid scrum near half-way to send full-back Billy Dardis away for the opening score.
The conversion was missed by Joey Carbery, but the UCD outside-half slotted a penalty eight minutes later when Scotland scrum-half George Horn was caught offside at the breakdown.
The second try was another team move, this time from a lineout as Ireland threw the ball wide to attack down the left.
After Sam Arnold’s kick in behind the Scotland defence was carried out by their full-back, Ireland’s forwards and backs made metres with ball in hand into the red zone, and quick thinking from Ireland flanker Conor Oliver to realise he hadn’t been held in a tackle near the tryline allowed the St Mary’s man to flop over the line for their second try.
Despite enjoying healthy spells of possession and their lineout working well, all Scotland could manage on the scoreboard was a late penalty from Glasgow Hawks scrum-half Horne after another knock-on, but Ireland were adjudged to be offside at the breakdown.
The opening quarter of the second half saw Carbery extend Ireland’s lead to 15 points just three minutes in, only for the score to be cancelled out by a second Horne penalty two minutes later, but Scotland continued to make inroads, only for handling errors to continue to haunt them.
The spark finally arrived after the second official water break in the stifling heat of northern Italy on the hour mark when another well-taken lineout saw Melrose lock Lewis Carmichael score his second try of the tournament from a driving maul with Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn adding the conversion to make it 18-13.
Carbery hit back three minutes later with another penalty and, with Ireland’s task made harder by Oliver’s yellow card with 10 minutes remaining, Tomás Quinlan – their hero against Los Pumitas – fired over a penalty with three minutes remaining to put a result out of Scotland’s grasp.
But Sean Lineen’s side still had plenty of fight about them and replacement flanker Ruaridh Knott became the second Melrose man to make it over as he secured a losing bonus point for his side with the clock red before replacement outside-half Rory Hutchinson slotted the conversion.
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