Johnny Sexton steered Ireland to a 27-24 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday, grinding down a sparkling but indisciplined home side to cap off a brilliant weekend of Six Nations rugby and send his team shooting up the standings.
Tries by Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne and the unerring boot of the Irish flyhalf helped them to a win that lifted them to second on 11 points, albeit with no hope of winning the tournament with Wales on 19.
Scotland were at times dazzling in attack, their main creative forces Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg prominent as they ran in brilliant tries for Russell, Huw Jones and Hamish Watson but could not match Ireland's control.
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Sexton piled on the penalties in the second half as Ireland survived a spirited Scotland comeback and secured the win that left the hosts stuck in fifth place in the table with two games remaining.
With drizzle sweeping across Murrayfield this was a more error-strewn affair than the showcase of attacking precision put on by England and France on Saturday, but no less intense.
Both sides profited from the game's loose nature, with the ball constantly slipping from leaping defenders' clutches and referee Roman Poite allowing a fierce, if not always legal, scrap at the breakdown.
Ireland had thrown the most passes and made the most metres in the competition going into this game, but had too often struggled to convert that attacking intent into points.
Their sharper attacking play on Sunday was exemplified by a delightful double-sidestep from the burly Tadgh Furlong that left two defenders floored.
Sexton, back to near his best in front of the watching Lions coach Warren Gatland, created the first try with a left-to-right bomb that Hogg and team mate Chris Harris conspired to spill.
Robbie Henshaw was on hand to dive on the loose ball, setting the tone for the entertaining chaos to come.
Russell struck back for Scotland with a madcap try that combined brilliant skill with outrageous fortune to stake his own claim for the red number 10 shirt.
Hogg charged down an attempted clearance deep on the left side of the pitch and then, as the ball bounced off his chest, dabbed it cross-field with a chip-kick on the fly, allowing Russell to boot it forward in turn and dive on yet another spilled ball in-goal.
For all their attacking brilliance it was a familiar story of ill-discipline leading to disappointment for Scotland, as their lineout floundered and they infringed too often in the second half while Ireland tightened up their play.
The hosts gave themselves a late chance, levelling the score at 24-all when a brave call to go for the try from a penalty paid off as the mighty Hamish Watson muscled over.
But it was ultimately a victory for Ireland's superior game management as their talisman Sexton stroked over a typically nerveless near-touchline penalty in the dying minutes to seal the win.
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