Stockdale double sets up Irish for Grand Slam showdown
Try machine Jacob Stockdale's two tries inspired Ireland to move to within one win of only their third Five/Six Nations Grand Slam with a 28-8 victory over Scotland on Saturday.
The 21-year-old's first-half double -- making him the only Irishman to score six tries in the tournament -- was added to by Conor Murray and Sean Cronin in the second-half as the Irish secured a third successive bonus point win.
They can clinch the title later if defending champions England -- who the Irish play next Saturday at Twickenham -- fail to secure a bonus point win over France in Paris.
Showing early confidence Johnny Sexton opted to kick to touch close to the Scots tryline rather than at goal but it failed to come off as the Scots stole the lineout.
The visitors managed to repel constant Irish attacks in the opening 10 minutes but finally had a shot at goal in the 12th minute though an angry Sexton complained the Scots should have been penalised for a knock on by Huw Jones.
Sexton's displeasure didn't distract Greig Laidlaw who slotted over the penalty to give them a 3-0 lead.
Sloppy play by the Irish even affected the usually reliable Keith Earls who with Stockdale out wide and free sent a wild pass right over his head into touch.
The Scots emboldened by the Irish errors fnally put together a decent move with some sublime handling until home flanker Denis Leavy won a penalty inside his own 22 to alleviate the pressure.
However, the pendulum swung towards the Irish just after the 20 minute mark as expert poacher Stockdale pounced to intercept a long pass by Peter Horne and race away to touch down and Sexton converted for 7-3.
The Scots should have hit back with a try after a lovely run by Huw Jones outfoxing Earls but his pass to Stuart Hogg, who was free inside the 22, was a woeful one and the chance went begging.
That missed opportunity proved ever more costly when Stockdale went in in the corner in the final move of the half -- Rob Kearney's barnstorming run having almost got Murray over the line initially -- Sexton converting brilliantly from the touchline for a 14-3 half-time lead.
Murray, though, was to get his moment of glory as he ducked inside Finn Russell and went over six minutes into the second-half -- Sexton converting as the Irish eased away to 21-3.
The Scots, though, were not down and out as Blair Kinghorn went in in the corner for his first Test try after beating Stockdale -- Laidlaw just failed with the conversion.
The visitors should have been in for a second one minutes later had Horne passed to Huw Jones and not a wild one out to Kinghorn but the Irish were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
The hosts pressed hard to secure the bonus point with a fourth try but the Scots held them off and won a penalty to clear their lines as the match entered the final quarter.
However, replacement hooker Cronin sealed the bonus point as he went over from close in shortly after replacing skipper Rory Best -- Sexton converted brilliantly from the touchline for 28-8.
© 2018 AFP