Ireland have notched a second straight win in their Rugby World Cup warm-up programme, beating Scotland 28-22 thanks to an inspired performance by fly-half Ian Madigan on Saturday night.
Madigan is almost certain to be back-up to Jonny Sexton at No 10 during the World Cup that starts next month, but stated his case by setting up two of Ireland’s three second-half tries – for Simon Zebo and Luke Fitzgerald – and landing four of his five kicks.
In a disjointed match between two experimental line-ups, Ireland scored four tries in all, first through Chris Henry before fellow flanker Blair Cowan went over for Scotland to make it 7-7 at half time.
Left winger Fitzgerald grabbed the clinching try in the 69th minute, taking on the run a pinpoint, cross-field kick from Madigan to score in the left corner.
There was a blow for Scotland in the first of their four warm-up matches, with British & Irish Lions prop Ryan Grant carried off on a stretcher early in the second half with a protective boot strapped to his right ankle.
Ireland, who won the past two Six Nations titles, rose to second place in the world rankings this month and are set to be the northern hemisphere’s best hope in the World Cup in England. The Irish beat Wales 35-21 away last week in their first warm-up.
The World Cup starts on September 18.
“We’re hugely disappointed,” said Scotland captain Henry Pyrgos.
“Ireland played well, but we came to win. There are still positives. We’re going in the right direction. We scored three tries against a quality side.”
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said: “I thought it was a genuine test in all natures.
“Physically they brought a real collision focus. The lungs were bursting at times and we dropped off tackles.
“It was a test of character, falling behind a number of times and having to rebuild. I think we showed a bit of rustiness.”
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