Andy Farrell praised the grit the Ireland team showed securing his first win as head coach in the 19-12 Six Nations clash with Scotland on Saturday at Lansdowne Road.
The Irish rode their luck against an incisive Scots side that spurned several, the most glaring when captain Stuart Hogg dropped the ball as he crossed the try-line with the Irish leading 16-9.
In the end, 19 points from captain Johnny Sexton edged Ireland to the win in Farrell’s first Test since stepping up from assistant to Joe Schmidt following the World Cup last year.
“It was a decent start,” said the 44-year-old Englishman.
“Our performance was summed up in the last five minutes we asked the lads to stand for something this week and you could easily see the true Irish grit.
“There were guys out there not used to playing for so long but due to injuries were still tracking back in the final five minutes.
“The pack was magnificent.”
Sexton praised the courage of the players declaring their performance in defence as “unbelievable”
The 34-year-old Irish great was satisfied with his performance. He had not played competitive rugby since early December because of a knee injury.
“I felt good but obviously rusty,” he said.
“It is tough when you are in a brace for three weeks and then getting fit for the next three weeks.
“It is not about me it is about the team and winning.
“If I can help with that, then great.”
AFP / PAUL FAITH Ireland fly-half Johnny
Sexton produced a magnificent performance and display of leadership
after six weeks out said coach Andy Farrell
Farrell, father of England captain Owen, praised the 2018 World Player of the Year’s performance.
“For him not to fight in anger till Thursday this week says it all about the man and his passion to lead his country for the first time (in the Six Nations).
“To deal with that and lead the side like that is truly magnificent.”
– ‘In a better place’ –
Farrell acknowledged there were things to improve on next week leading up to Saturday’s home game with Grand Slam holders Wales, who opened with a 42-0 thrashing of Italy.
“We got carried away at times,” he said.
“Some of the decision-making was good but some were wayward, we are a work in progress.
“We asked them to stand for something and again they showed true Irish grit.
“There is plenty to work on, but some good.”
Sexton, who had a poor year in 2019 as fitness problems affected his form, said it had been hard to express themselves without being more than a converted try ahead.
“The first game of the tournament is all about winning,” he said.
“Last year in England we lost and that was immediately the Triple Crown gone, Grand Slam went and facing an uphill battle to win the championship.
“We are alive and that is where you want to be.”
For Farrell’s opposite number Gregor Townsend, it was a case of a missed opportunity to beat the Irish at home for the first time since 2010.
“We have to be more clinical,” he said.
“I think we knew we had an opportunity to win.
AFP / PAUL FAITH Scotland captain Stuart Hogg’s dropping of the ball over the try-line summed up his side’s inability to finish off several try-scoring opportunities in the 19-12 defeat by Ireland
“The scrum gave us a great foothold in the game but we just could not finish off.
“We also gave away too many penalties: 15 penalties you are not going to win a Test match, especially against an Ireland side that has lost only one Six Nations match at home in the past five years,”
Hogg said was proud of the team, who showed they had moved on from a disappointing World Cup where they went out at the pool stage.
“We fronted up, the defense stood firm, and is something we worked on over the past fortnight,” said the 27-year-old.
“I am bitterly disappointed we did not come away with a result.
“However, we are in a better place to when we came back from the World Cup.”