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Ireland grinds out win, resets at 6 Nations

The Associated Press

Ireland’s Keith Earls, left, scores his side’s third try during Six Nations action against Scotland on Saturday.

The Associated PressEDINBURGH (AP) — Ireland kept alive its Six Nations title defense at Murrayfield by grinding down Scotland 22-13 on Saturday.

After being crunched by England on the opening weekend in Dublin, Ireland had to rebound far from home against a Scotland side confident it had the steel and flair to end Ireland’s championship reign in the second round.

But after a breathless first half in which the Irish edged 12-10, they scored a third soft try for some breathing room and their defense limited Scotland to just a penalty.

Ireland’s game management was made easier by Scotland committing 15 handling errors, more than twice as many as the Irish. Scotland also lost three throw-ins. Unlike in the first half, the Scots couldn’t get a foothold in the Irish 22 or sustain an attack.

Ireland’s regulation win had some shine with the return of flyhalf Joey Carbery, who was on after only 23 minutes when playmaker Jonathan Sexton came off for a head knock. Carbery almost gave Scotland its only try from an intercept, but he created the only try in the second half and kicked a penalty to deny the Scots even a losing bonus point at home.

Coach Joe Schmidt believed Sexton will be available for the next match at Italy on Feb. 24. He said Sexton failed a head injury exam after a heavy fall and a stamp. He was also relieved by the team’s effort.

“There was definitely a rise in temperature, definitely a rise in energy, from last week,” Schmidt said.

“Now we’ve got to make sure we kick on. We’re relying on other people now [to win the championship], but the one thing we don’t have to rely on other people for is how we approach things and how we perform.”

All three of Ireland’s tries were on the soft side, including the first against the run of play. A Jacob Stockdale chip was covered by Scotland, until Tommy Seymour’s pass off to fellow wing Sean Maitland was over the latter’s head and into the hands of Ireland’s Conor Murray to run in.

The try was a double blow to Scotland. Star fullback Stuart Hogg was hit late by Peter O’Mahony, flew over the Irish flanker, and crashed onto his right shoulder. The injury forced Hogg to walk off soon after.

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