17/02/2003

Irish rugby's 18-year Murrayfield losing streak ends

Irish rugby ended 18 years of defeats in Edinburgh yesterday, when the national side notched up a record-breaking victory against Scotland at Murrayfield.

The 36-6 Six Nations win eclipsed Ireland's previous best showing at the Scottish capital – and a record that had stood for over 50 years.

The match marked a fine individual display by Ulster's stand-in outhalf David Humphreys who racked up 26 points – a try, three conversion and five penalty goals.

Team captain Brian O'Driscoll, who was awarded the man of the match award, paid tribute to his vice-captain saying that Humphreys deserved all the plaudits for an individual display that will now give Coach Eddie O'Sullivan problems over who to slot into the number 10 position for the next game. Munster's Ronan O'Gara had been first choice outhalf in recent internationals but a niggling ankle injury he picked up in Munster's Celtic League final win against Neath sidelined him.

In what was a highly competitive match, Ireland narrowly avoided being seven points down in the first 30 seconds after a Hickie clearance kick was charged down. The Scots threatened the Irish line on occasion but some poor decision-making and a spirited Irish defence limited the home side to two Gordon Ross penalties.

The Irish gained momentum after a period of sustained pressure at the start of the second half, in the end running in three tries through Hickie, Murphy and Humphreys.

The Scotland victory builds on impressive showings in the winter internationals, not least Ireland's 18-9 demolition of world champions Australia last November.

In a Six Nations programme shortened to eights consecutive weeks, Ireland now face the prospect of travelling to Rome to face the Italians – who dispatched Wales on Saturday in only their second-ever championship win.

(GMcG)

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