Earls brace gives Ireland coach Farrell vital win

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Andy Farrell
Andy Farrell
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Two tries by Keith Earls inspired Ireland to a 31-16 victory over Scotland in their third place Autumn Nations Cup play-off at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

The hosts' victory will be a welcome one for head coach Andy Farrell to take into next year's Six Nations, finishing with six wins in his nine Tests this year.

Earls' brace saw him move into second place in the all-time Ireland try scoring list with 32 -- 14 off Brian O'Driscoll's total.

"There are plenty of learnings for this, we know where we're at as a side and what's going on in the background," Farrell told Amazon Prime.

"These six games were a priceless experience for us."

The momentum of the game hinged on Scotland centre Duncan Taylor's yellow card late in the second-half which the Irish used to turn a deficit into an 11-9 lead at the break.

"Before half-time we allowed Ireland back in through the sin-binning and first 10 minutes of second-half we let our discipline slide," said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

"We have learned a lot."

Jaco van der Walt -- one of 12 South Africa- or New Zealand-born players in the two squads -- scored his first Test points with a penalty to give the Scots a 3-0 lead in the 14th minute.

Van der Walt, though, knocked on when the Scots were in an excellent position to score a try after the Irish had messed up a line-out.

However, the 26-year-old proved trustier with the boot, adding another penalty in the 20th minute.

Johnny Sexton had missed an earlier attempt but with his left hamstring strapped, the 35-year-old slotted over a penalty to bring up a century of points against the Scots with 23 minutes gone.

Van der Walt restored the six-point advantage minutes later as the visitors, showing more flair and invention, forced the Irish into conceding a penalty. The Scots' stranglehold on the game loosened when Taylor was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and Sexton converted the penalty for 9-6 with 10 minutes to the break.

The Irish, surprisingly given the balance of play, entered half-time 11-9 up thanks to Earls' first try.

He was brilliantly set up by Robbie Henshaw, who out jumped Darcy Graham and tapped back Sexton's kick into the Scots try area.

The Irish tails were in the air, carrying over the confidence gained from that try to score a second early in the second-half through Cian Healy.

The 104-time capped prop burrowed over after the Irish had been handed an excellent position due to Stuart Hogg's knock-on in the 22. Sexton converted for 18-9.

Sexton boldly went for the corner instead of for goal with a penalty and it paid off as it ended with Earls going in for another try.

Sexton converted brilliantly from the touchline for 25-9.

The Scots hit back when Duhan van der Merwe brushed aside Rob Herring and had too much pace to outrun the chasing Irish defenders to touch down.

Van der Walt converted to leave the match still in the balance with the Scots trailing 25-16 and more than 20 minutes remaining.

Ireland increased their lead to 12 points through a penalty by Ross Byrne -- Sexton having gone off feeling his left hamstring.

The Irish had the breathing space and with the Scots tiring they had a try by Peter O'Mahony ruled out but Byrne added a penalty for 31-16.

The Scots, though, will rue missing out on ramming home their first-half dominance and will have to wait another two years to end their decade-long losing run in Dublin.


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