This article was first published yesterday in our bespoke Sports newsletter The Fixture. You can sign up in seconds to receive it straight to your inbox every weekday here.

A few weeks back The Fixture urged a degree of caution regarding Scotland's chances of lifting a first Triple Crown in 33 years prior to yesterday's misadventures at Murrayfield.

It was the morning after the third round of matches and a trip to Paris had whizzed by with more incidents than your average episode of Police, Camera, Action. Scotland were licking their wounds after a 33-21 defeat that, in truth, had been closer than the scoreline suggested and had felt inevitable after Grant Gilchrist's sixth-minute sending off which left Gregor Townsend's side staring at a 12-point deficit after barely an eighth of the game had elapsed.

Having dispensed with England and Wales in easy fashion, two results that have been given their proper context in the fixtures that have followed since, Scotland had been right to feel the defeat by France had been coloured by Gilchrist's dismissal, even if Mohamed Haouas also saw red for the hosts a mere 14 minutes later.

If nothing else, it meant there was a mitigating factor to point to in defeat. At Murrayfield on Saturday, there was more of the same grunt from Scotland as they went toe to toe with Ireland in the first half. If George Turner had converted a desperate reach for the line just before the interval then Scotland might have entered the Murrayfield tunnel at the interval with renewed fire in their bellies.

Instead, Townsend revealed afterwards that there had been a sense of deflation among his players in the Scotland dressing room over their failure to take advantage of Ireland's general dishevelment and instead trailed 8-7.

“I felt the energy was dropping throughout the team after all the work which was put in during the first half,” said the Scotland head coach. “Whether we expected things to come to us? We didn't grab that and Ireland did, we were also too passive at times.”

If that was an admission that the players believed they could do no more to unhinge the Irish, it was certainly borne out by the second-half performance. Alas, there was no mitigation this time. Inside five minutes around the hour mark, Ireland simply went up through the gears and took the match away from Scotland. There is a reason why they are the best side in the world but this was an Ireland team that had lost four players to injury during the course of the match – including two hookers – and had their world player of the year flanker, Josh van der Flier, throwing into the lineout where he would normally be stationed. And, yet, it all felt a bit impotent from Scotland in that second half. Rather than gain an incentive from their opponent's travails, they appeared to lose the plot. Ireland were galvanised in adversity and it was little surprise that when referee Les Pearce blew his whistle the Scots were traipsing off to their eighth successive defeat at the hands of the men in green.


It bodes badly for the World Cup in September. Defeat by Ireland was not the embarrassment of previous meetings – and Andy Farrell's side have lost just twice in Test matches in two years – but it was enervating and all too predictable. There would have been plenty of optimism to be gleaned in a loss had it been closer and one in which Scotland had finally worked out a way to exploit some of Ireland's weaknesses but there was none of that. It makes for a deflating outlook ahead of Scotland's World Cup where pool stage exit now seems to be a foregone conclusion with the Irish and South Africa drawn in the same group as Townsend's men.

Next, though, comes Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday in a match that Scotland must win if they are to post a positive record for a Six Nations tournament that promised so much but delivered plenty more of the same.