Jack Conan hailed Ireland’s battling win in Scotland as one of his greatest days as an international after Andy Farrell’s side took a giant step towards an historic Grand Slam.
Ireland trailed early on after Huw Jones’ fourth try of the Championship but kept Scotland at bay thereafter.
After taking the lead through an excellent finish from Mack Hansen, Ireland hit their straps in the final half an hour to run out 22-7 winners on the 300th Test played at BT Murrayfield.
The victory against Triple Crown-chasing Scotland was made all the more impressive in light of their response to a host of injuries suffered during the match, with Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher and Garry Ringrose all forced off.
Conan insisted that Ireland were always prepared to face adversity against an in-form Scotland side, but even he was taken aback by how his team dealt with trying circumstances.
“I think it’s such a testament to the belief that we as a squad have in each other and the management have in us,” said Conan.
“We spoke during the week about adversity, about what happened here a few years ago, rocking up a few minutes late and we said ‘no excuses’.
“Faz spoke during the week about rocking up 10 minutes before the game and getting the job done. We could have walked off the bus (today) and played and it wouldn’t have mattered to us.
“It’s such a testament to how mentally strong the lads are, the resolve they have and that the coaches have fortified within us.”
Conan was one a number of players who entered proceedings earlier than planned, replacing the stricken Doris after just 12 minutes.
He admits that he and his teammates were initially caught a bit cold as Scotland came out all guns blazing inside a red-hot BT Murrayfield.
After weathering the early storm – and the raft of injuries – Ireland pulled clear in the second period, with Conan going over in the corner to settle the tie just five minutes after James Lowe had touched down for a crucial second.
“We weren’t great at times,” said Conan.
“I felt when I came on at the start I was a little bit sluggish and slow in some of my contacts but it was one of best days I’ve ever been involved in with this Irish squad.
“To lose both hookers, two world-class players, to lose one of the best back rowers in the world, one of the best second rowers in the world in Iain Henderson in the first 20 minutes. I don’t know how many teams can bounce back from that and put on the performance we did.
“It’s an unbelievable group of lads and to win here is just so special after everything we went through in that 80 minutes.”
Ireland can now look forward to a home clash with England on St Patrick’s weekend, where they will look to claim a first Grand Slam since 2018.
A win would also see them lift the title on home soil for the first time since 1985, while Johnny Sexton could also move clear of Ronan O’Gara for the most points ever scored in the Six Nations on what is likely to be his final Championship appearance.
“If you were going to write it, it doesn’t get much better than that,” added Conan.
“Look, there is obviously a lot of things we need to get better at before next week. England will be disappointed with how they went against France, I’ve no doubt they will bounce back and be better. We’ll need to be better than we were as well at stages.
“There are a lot of sore bodies, a lot of boys need to recover and get right. We’ve a shorter turnaround, the first thing is we’ve got to make sure we’re physically ready to go at five o’clock. But everyone is excited. What a special day.”