Greig Laidlaw: Scotland shook off ‘plucky loser’ tag with Ireland win

Greig Laidlaw celebrates Scotland's 27-22 win over Ireland. Pic: SNS

Greig Laidlaw celebrates Scotland's 27-22 win over Ireland. Pic: SNS

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Captain Greig Laidlaw believes Scotland have finally shaken off their ‘plucky losers’ tag after battling back to beat Ireland at Murrayfield.

The Dark Blues kicked off the RBS 6 Nations with a 27-22 win over Joe Schmidt’s side - giving them their first opening-day win in 11 years.

Inspired by the brilliant Stuart Hogg, Vern Cotter’s men looked set to storm to victory before a second-half fight-back allowed Ireland to nudge ahead.

A team who have suffered numerous late defeats in the recent past could have folded at that point but Laidlaw’s instead men held firm, with the skipper slotting over two late penalties to secure a precious win.

Asked if the win showed a change in mentality, Laidlaw said: “Yeah there is, definitely.

“We know what plays to go to when we’re in tight games.

“It’s the way we’re coached during the week through Vern and the other coaches, we know how to build pressure on teams, gather field position and that’s why we won.

“It was so pleasing to come back and close it out. Just to grab it back was so pleasing.

“It was a great team effort and one we’re delighted to start the championship with.

“We just don’t want to be getting beaten anymore, so it was so pleasing to get this over the line.

“The message was ‘hold onto the ball’, and it worked very well overall.”

Scotland stormed out of the blocks, with Hogg finishing off a stunning double before Alex Dunbar added a third try from a clever line-out move, all before half-time.

The Irish followed up their own first-half try from Keith Earls with further scores from Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson.

But Laidlaw gathered his men together and regrouped for the late charge which eventually saw them home.

Asked what was going through his mind as he lined up his last-minute kick which eventually sealed victory, he laughed and said: “’Don’t hit the post’ was one thing.

“That’s what dreams are made of, the whole stadium was signing the anthem. I was pretty happy.

“It was a simple message today: hold onto the ball. That’s how we were able to score 21 points in the first half.”

Scotland’s first victory since 2013 over Ireland - who claim a losing bonus point - means they start the Six Nations with a win for the first time since beating France back in 2006.

Head coach Cotter said: “We knew at half-time these guys would come back much stronger and they did.

“We defended very well for long periods. We fell off some tackles which we will have to look at before we go up against the French.

“What was nice was stopping them scoring tries a metre from the line, total commitment, scramble defence and then being able to get a grip of the game in the last 10 minutes.”

And the Kiwi, who departs this summer to be replaced by Gregor Townsend, admits the win was the most satisfying of his three-year reign.

“I think it would have to be,” Cotter said. “I’m really happy for the players that put in so much work. It validates that work.

“It certainly changes the dynamic, to start the Six Nations with a win.

“But it’s only one game. I know their feet will be firmly on the ground to make sure we back this up with another good performance.”

While the Scots will now head to Paris in jubilant mood for next Sunday’s assignment, Ireland will have to salvage their title hopes against Italy in Rome.

“It’s obviously far from ideal, the defeat is pretty tough to take,” said Ireland boss Schmidt.

“But it was always potentially a reality coming here. We knew these guys had improved, Vern Cotter has done a great job with them.

“We fed their self-belief which was dangerous to do.

“They were more encouraged because they felt they could open up and play against us and they did it well.

“The things we talked about, we then put into place in the second half and they didn’t score another try.

“That’s the major frustration, that you can try to prepare as best you can but it’s actually what you deliver that will determine a result.

“We have to take it on the chin and it looks like a very tough championship to win.

“But we know we’re not out of it, we did pick up that bonus point.

“We’ve got to go to Italy now and make sure we get five or six points from these first two games, and get some momentum for the back half of the championship.”