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Scotland crowned European champions

Scotland were crowned European champions in their absence in Wrexham on Sunday after Ireland fell agonisingly short in their brave attempt to overhaul them.

Ireland rounded off the tournament with a 46-14 win over wooden spoonists Wales to draw level with France and the Scots, who take the first title in their 20-year history courtesy of a superior points difference.

The Wolfhounds needed a winning margin of more than 40 points and, although they were on target by half-time when they led 28-0, the Welsh produced a spirited second-half performance to deny them the big prize of a place in the 2016 Four Nations Series alongside the big guns of England, Australia and New Zealand, as well as automatic qualification for the 2017 World Cup.

Leading by 36 points with three minutes left, stand-off Ben Johnston went on a mazy run that took him to within five metres of grabbing the crucial try but he lost the ball in the tackle and Wales full-back Tom Hughes went the length of the field for a third try to finally dash Irish hopes.

Winger Brad Hargreaves scored a hat-trick of tries on his international debut for the Wolfhounds, while the experienced Liam Finn ran the show and contributed 18 points with a try and seven goals.

It took the Irish just two minutes to open the scoring, a break from Johnston creating the position from which the impressive Luke Ambler got second rower Will Hope over for the first of their eight tries.

Ambler strolled over for one of his own and the experience of Finn and full-back Shannon McDonnell enabled Hargreaves to cross for two before half-time.

With Finn jinking his way through the Welsh defence four minutes before the break, the Wolfhounds were more than halfway to their target.

Scotland were given a lifeline when Wales pulled a try back five minutes into the second half through winger Rhys Williams' record-extending 16th for his country, with Lewis Reece adding the conversion, and winger Dalton Grant also touched down for the home side.

Ireland were back on course when Hargreaves accepted a pass from his centre Haydn Peacock to complete his hat-trick while Casey Dunne and Peacock also touched down but it was all ultimately in vain.

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