When you win the ones you shouldn’t you know you’re in a good place

Ireland… 22

Scotland… 7

Sometimes in sport you’ll see things that scarcely seem credible at the time, never mind when the thing that waits for no man or woman or child or beast rolls on.

Devon Loch putting down on Dick Francis with the Grand National on a plate, Kevin Foley ghosting up the field to score the decisive goal for Meath against Dublin, Darren Clarke hitting the first and last shots in the Ryder Cup only weeks after the death of his wife Heather.

Such lists could go to infinity and beyond. One item which would absolutely belong in any such amalgam is Keith Wood’s heroic performance against England on the day Ireland denied the auld enemy a Grand Slam in the season delayed by the Foot And Mouth outbreak.

Uncle Fester: Keith Wood was the best player of his generation

Sunday’s conquest of Scotland at Murrayfield is now worthy of similar acclaim. With the English and Welsh seemingly in differing stages of chaos and the French commensurate to an inconsistent bowel, it was always the case that the Scots would provide those deemed currently the world’s best team with their most stern examination.

Right from the moment the action erupted – and that is the only description possible – inside the Edinburgh venue, it was clear those expectations were going to be handsomely met. And then some.

After a chess-like few phases, the home side coughed up the first of a plethora of penalties and Johnny Sexton duly drilled over a nerve settler. Or what should have been that.

Except it wasn’t. Because very shortly thereafter, Gregor Townsend’s improving side essentially outdid Ireland at their own game. Moving the ball rapidly through the hands with Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Richie Gray all involved before Huw Jones touched down.

While the threat carried by the Tartan Army won’t have been a shock, it was a lapse Ireland could have done without. Mind you, very shortly thereafter, conceding a score was the least of their worries.

Simply as they’d lost three players – Caelan Dorris, Dan Sheahan and Iain Henderson quicker than Michael Van Gerwen would fire three arrows at treble tops.

However, you know you’re in a good place when you win the ones you shouldn’t. Whether that’s collisions, decisions or actual matches themselves.

Dorris had been the standout player in the Six Nations Championship prior to today and the hope would be that the knock which forced him off after 13 minutes here is nothing too serious. That said, their response to such a calamitous chain of events underscored just why they are currently the best team on planet rugby.

Starting almost immediately after the Jones try. When, despite the pack’s inefficiency at presenting ball to Conor Murray, they managed to work the ball up the field and in the end Jack Conan – who was only on having replaced Dorris – burrowed over for a try.

Sexton was askew with the conversion, but that setback was negated from being even worse when herculean defence from James Lowe and Mac Hansen effected a gargantuan turnover which, in a perhaps unlikely fashion, left Ireland still in front (8-7) at half time.

So the good ship Ireland was afloat at that stage, but hardly steady. Thus the last thing they needed was a further up scuttling of their already shaky vessel, yet that is exactly what Andy Farrell et al were forced to deal with when replacement hooker Ronan Kelliher was left like a bird flying on one wing. Able to play on but incapable of performing his primary function – throwing to the line out.

Hence transpired a scenario similar to when Peter O’Mahony ended up in the wing or Keith Wood kicked a drop goal, this time, it involved the remarkable Cian Healy filling in at hooker on the occasion of his 121st cap which in turn led to Josh van der Flier actually performing the function of lineout director.

Josh van der Flier is currently the best player in the world

Perhaps there’s something deeper at play though, a mindset whereby, no matter what is thrown at an entity on a given day they shall overcome. Thus van der Flier served the line out like a barman in the Guinness Storehouse with years of experience.

On foot of which Hansen – in particular – and Lowe wreaked havoc up the middle of the Scots’ defence, ultimately culminating in tries for both of them as they set up the possibility of a classic Grand Slam conclusion against England on St Patrick’s Day.

Indeed, their already healthy looking position came within inches of being embellished still further when another exceptional move orchestrated by the Connacht man came agonisingly close to putting James Ryan for the bonus point try. Still, an exceptional day’s work. With any luck, there’s another one just around the corner.

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