Ireland took another step towards the Grand Slam with an incredibly hard-fought 22-7 victory over Scotland.
A 15-point win at Murrayfield sets up a mouthwatering St Patrick’s weekend clash against England in Dublin on Saturday.
Victory over an English outfit, humiliated by France in Twickenham on Saturday, would earn Ireland just a fourth ever Grand Slam and with that the title also.
All of Ireland’s four Six Nations championship victories have been crowned on the road but now Dublin will have a chance to celebrate in style should they get the job done against Steve Borthwick charges.
Andy Farrell’s side earned their shot at glory overcoming the early loss of a number of starters but were still able to restrict the hosts to a single score and tries from Mack Hansen, James Lowe and Jack Conan killed off Scottish Triple Crown and championship hopes.
However they will have to deal with a lengthy injury list after losing Caelan Doris, Dan Sheehan, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher and Garry Ringrose, who required medical attention lasting over five minutes on the field after a sickening collision, during the course of a tense Test in the Scottish capital, where Ireland extended their run over their opponents to eight games.
Ireland were able to welcome back Johnny Sexton, Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong to their starting team, while Jamison Gibson-Park and Robbie Henshaw assisted off the bench, the latter three making their first appearances of the tournament.
The visitors dominated the early possession and camped in the Scottish half. They were perhaps unlucky not to get a try when Sheehan barged over after Doris plucked a quick Scottish lineout, the play called back because the Scots used a new ball.
But the pressure eventually told when Sexton tapped over a penalty from under the posts to give Ireland the lead but the high tempo and hard hitting came at a cost.
By the 24th minute, Ireland had made their third substitution in the pack with Doris, Sheehan and Henderson, lording it in the lineout, all forced off.
At that stage Scotland had taken the lead.
Finn Russell was finding willing runners who were able to force Ireland’s defensive line back and Huw Jones was on hand to finish off Sione Tuipulotu’s pass under the posts.
The wind and rain forecast didn’t materialise and both sides were eager with ball in hand.
A few phases later Hansen, after taking a pinpoint long pass from Hugo Keenan, dived over in the corner, his body was over the line but the Australian managed to dot down for his sixth international try and Ireland had the lead.
Everything appeared to be going wrong but then the pendulum swung again as Ireland stuck the dagger in with two tries in a five-minute spell.
Hansen collected his own Garryowen and, playing a penalty advantage, Ireland went through the phases and eventually, replacement Gibson-Park flung a pass out wide for Lowe who powered over Kyle Steyn to dot down.
Moments later the Connacht wing was centrally involved in setting up Conan to get Ireland’s third as Scotland wilted.
Crucially, Sexton split the posts twice from the either touchline and the 22-7 scoreline had Ireland two scores clear, both times the returning captain celebrating the extras.
As Scotland tried to break from deep Ringrose got his head on the wrong side and collided with Blair Kinghorn’s hip and needed lengthy treatment but was reported to be “conscious and talking” by referee Luke Pearce.
Job done and the Grand Slam dream moves a step closer.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Jonny Gray; Matt Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie (capt), Jack Dempsey
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Scott Cummings, Hamish Watson, Ali Price, Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Ryan Baird, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw.