Caelan Doris hailed Ireland’s ‘best performance of the autumn’ they beat Scotland 31-16 to seal third spot in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.
A brace from Keith Earls, who scored either side of half-time, and Cian Healy’s second-half score saw Andy Farrell’s side end the calendar year on a positive note in Dublin.
Doris, who was named Player of the Match at the Aviva Stadium, highlighted the improvement in performance from that against Georgia last weekend but believes there is still plenty of work to do as they look ahead to next year’s Guinness Six Nations.
“It was a tough one,” said the 22-year-old back rower. “Scotland really put it up against us and have put in some top performances in the last couple of weeks so we knew it would be tough.
“We love playing here at the Aviva and wanted to finish the campaign with a good performance – it was probably the best one so far.
“We still have plenty to work on. It wasn’t an 80-minute performance and we were slow to start but overall we’re happy.
“I think the second half against Georgia wasn’t where we wanted to be. We only had a six-day turnaround to this game and had a couple of good meetings and spoke about what we wanted to fix going into this week. I think we delivered on that.”
With third spot in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup on the line, the two sides shared a handful of penalties in the opening half-hour.
Jaco van der Walt slotted three early efforts between the upright on his first international appearance, while Johnny Sexton replied with a single three-pointer as he made his return from injury.
Duncan Taylor’s yellow card on the half-hour mark for a deliberate knock-on changed the momentum as the pendulum swung towards Ireland.
Sexton’s second penalty reduced the deficit before his up-and-under was latched on to by Earls, who touched down for the game’s opening score just before the interval following a good initial chase by Robbie Henshaw.
Ireland’s control continued into the second period, with Cian Healy powering over before a brilliant finish in the corner gave veteran wing Earls his second try of the afternoon.
Duhan van der Merwe’s wonderful individual score threatened a comeback for the visitors but replacement Ross Byrne’s two penalties put Ireland out of reach and left Scotland still searching for a first win in Dublin since 2010.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend admitted the game was changed by Taylor’s yellow card in the first period but he was impressed by the performance of debutant van der Walt.
“Just before half-time we allowed Ireland to come back in with the yellow card and give the opportunity to put pressure on us,” he said.
“In the first ten minutes in the second half we made errors that they capitalised on well. We had really good physicality and pace in our game. With a new team it was good to see cohesion at times.
“There were times when we were under pressure with 14 men and Ireland had pressure on our try line but we have to be better. We have to learn from today because we have a solid base for our game. Our defensive effort was good and our attack in the first half was excellent.
“Jaco [van der Walt] was very good. It was a new team and stage to play at international level. Some of his decisions were very good, he kicked his goals and he defended very well. It’s just a pity we didn’t have enough ball in the second half like we did in the first half.
“We are going to Twickenham in our next game (in the first round of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations) so it’ll be a tough challenge. Today will help us be better for the next game.”