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Our penalty count not acceptable - O'Driscoll

It took three magnificent turnovers from Paul O'Connell, one on the ground, one in the air and one in contact, in the last three minutes to save Ireland from a disastrous outcome against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Ireland's destiny came down to the Munster captain's quickness to a spilled ball, agility at a Scotland lineout and brute strength in contact. Cometh the hour, come the red-headed hero.

It was the combined fury of O'Connell, the fizz of Sean O'Brien, in patches, and the footballing finesse of the recalled Ronan O'Gara that kept Ireland from what would have been an unforgivable defeat.

Once again, indiscipline at the ruck spread like a contagion for a group of players struggling to come to terms with the new laws or, God forbid, carelessly flouting them.

"We have to take a look at the penalty count. It hurt us in the French game and it hurt us again today," said Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll.

"There are a certain amount of penalties you are going to give up, 50-50 decisions that the referee will call. We are definitely giving away four or five penalties that guys know they are guilty of."

If the players really trust their defensive system, they have to be more careful, rather than carefree, in an area that has made wins over Italy and Scotland more difficult than they should have been and ruined their chances against France.

"You are letting the guys down by doing that. You have to make sure if you get the jersey to wear again that you don't do that again because it is unacceptable," said O'Driscoll.

The coaches and players are all guilty as charged for the players' indiscipline and the team's ill-conceived or ill-executed game plan. Coach Declan Kidney moved from the confident position of uncharacteristically making a triple substitution in the 60th minute when Scotland looked dead and buried at 21-12 to making what appeared to be the panic introduction of Leo Cullen and Jonathan Sexton at 21-15 in the 66th and 67th minutes, respectively.

"We have a habit of making things hard for ourselves. We're after scoring three tries, getting a win, but we're not happy with how we went about it. We probably scored about 30 points. The trouble is nine of them were for them," he said. "Scotland always seems to be a side that gives us a good lesson at the breakdown. Unfortunately, that's what happened again today."

It is one thing to believe or not believe in the rotational value of using replacements. It is another to understand how to use them.

"We make changes when we think we should make changes. Some days you'll make them. Some days you won't. It will just depend on the way things are going. Today we thought it prudent to do that. We will take a look at it again the next day. In terms of the performance, we will take a good look at our breakdown work, our penalty count and the ones that were needlessly given away. We'll have a real hard look at that."


On a positive note, Ireland looked sharp once they played on the far side of the halfway line. The long-term refusal to play Mike Ross was once again given short shrift by his first driving scrum.

It enabled Ronan O'Gara to test Chris Paterson with a delicious chip. Forced to concede a lineout, Scotland were sent backwards from Paul O'Connell's take off-the-top and Rory Best's sure hands gave Jamie Heaslip a simple walk-in. O'Gara converted for a dream start.

When O'Gara angled a kick to the corner, the home side self-destructed in spectacular fashion, hooker Ross Ford throwing wildly to the back of the lineout five metres from his line. Ireland forced the concession of a scrum. From there, the front row marched forward, Heaslip peeled off the back and Reddan shot through the huge hole for a simple try.

When Ireland moved onto the front-foot, they looked better than good. In the second-half, Sean O'Brien exploded into the game by splitting Scotland in two on three occasions. Cian Healy simply refused to go to ground on the carry and, eventually, O'Gara handed off Ross Ford for the third try, which he also converted, in the 53rd minute for a 21-9 lead.

From there, the implosion kicked in. Number eight Heaslip was effective at a ruck until he continued to compete for the ball when off his feet. Patterson cracked another penalty to shrink the lead to nine points.

A triple substitution by Kidney was made to look risky when Denis Leamy inexcusably used his hands in a ruck. Replacement fly-half Dan Parks made it a one-score game from 50 metres.

Parks tightened it further from a drop goal taken with the benefit of the advantage rule. It was beyond belief how Leamy blatantly infringed again. Owens should have sent him to the bin.

Instead, Sexton finally sent the ball into the crowd to end the inaccuracies and indiscipline.