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New captain Johnny Sexton inspires narrow Six Nations win as Ireland survive Scotland scare

Ireland 19-12 Scotland

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Johnny Sexton marked his first game as Ireland captain by scoring all 19 points including an early try.

Johnny Sexton marked his first game as Ireland captain by scoring all 19 points including an early try.

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Johnny Sexton of Ireland crosses the line to score his sides first try  during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium on February 01, 2020 in Dublin, Dublin. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton of Ireland crosses the line to score his sides first try during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium on February 01, 2020 in Dublin, Dublin. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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The Ireland squad have a light workout upon arrival at the Aviva Stadium

The Ireland squad have a light workout upon arrival at the Aviva Stadium

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Johnny Sexton marked his first game as Ireland captain by scoring all 19 points including an early try.

The Andy Farrell era is up and running and, while he's the senior man now, the former defence coach will be especially pleased with his team's stellar effort in keeping a dogged Scottish effort at bay.

Given it was the first game of a new tournament, being played under new management, it was no surprise that this was a scrappy, often frantic affair.

The Scots came and threw everything they had at their hosts and their captain Stuart Hogg will have big regrets over his knock-on over the line early in the second-half, but Ireland will focus on the fact they conceded only six points from their visitors' 11 trips to their '22.

CJ Stander's 78th minute turnover was the fifth big play by an Irish forward in the red-zone, while their tackling was superb.

On the other side of the ball, they weren't so hot and Johnny Sexton's early try was the only time they got over the line.

But, they'll hope that will come with time. The game wasn't helped by an erratic refereeing display from Mathieu Raynal, while Ireland lost debutant Caelan Doris to an early head injury and have injury concerns over their No 8, Dave Kilcoyne, Garry Ringrose and Tadhg Furlong who was helped from the field after a big effort.

Their lineout went well, but their scrum struggled. Jordan Larmour countered well, but he got himself in trouble once or twice. When you're encouraged to try things, that's going to happen.

There were perhaps a few too many box-kicks, while the ball-protection can improve but all in all they'll be happy to take this first step away from the World Cup in the knowledge they'll need to be better against Wales next week.

Doris's day started so promisingly when he won a turnover penalty to thwart a promising ruck penalty after less than two minutes, but his debut came to a shuddering halt when defending more waves of Scottish pressure as he clashed heads with Adam Hastings.

The out-half opened the scoring when Iain Henderson coughed up a penalty, but the long pause for attention to Ireland's No 8 gave the home team breathing space and they upped their game off the kick-off with Jordan Larmour finding space.

Johnny Sexton turned down a difficult penalty chance won by Josh van der Flier, opting for the lineout and he got the ultimate reward.

Ireland mauled close to the line, before the forwards carried seven times. As soon as the Scots crept offside and Mathieu Raynal signalled advantage, Conor Murray called a move that saw Cian Healy pull the ball back to his skipper, Larmour run a good dummy line and Sexton take full advantage to score.

He converted, but a Larmour knock on and a scrum penalty against Cian Healy allowed Hastings close the gap again.

The Scots had plenty of the ball in the right areas, but they couldn't convert. Peter O'Mahony won another turnover penalty close but undid that good work minutes later as a promising attack came to an end when he obstructed a defender.

Larmour attempted to open things up with a chip ahead, but he was tripped as he chased and, with Raynal ignoring the incident, Hastings put the ball into the space the full-back left and Sexton knocked on when covering across.

Scotland's fifth visit to the Irish '22 came and went with no reward thanks to a CJ Stander turnover, while Hastings missed a tough penalty to put his side in front.

Instead, Sexton made it 10-6 from in front of the sticks after a fine take from Jacob Stockdale and some strong carrying from Bundee Aki and Cian Healy.

He missed a chance to extend that lead minutes later, before the game threatened to open up with a big Aki break that released Garry Ringrose. Instead of capitalising, Murray was picked off by Sam Johnson and Ireland needed their fourth breakdown turnover in their own '22, this time from CJ Stander, to keep their four point lead going in at half-time.

Ireland lost Ringrose at half-time, but they got a chance to get into the game with an early penalty and Sexton went to the corner.

Rory Sutherland didn't roll away at a ruck in front of the posts, so the captain took the opportunity to make it a seven-point game but it only lasted thanks to a Larmour intercept as the visitors threatened again.

Healy gave another penalty away at the scrum, but Ireland defended well before Larmour put a foot in touch attempting to run the ball out of his own '22.

Scotland almost made the territory pay, but having worked the overlap their captain Stuart Hogg inexplicably dropped the ball over the line. Raynal was playing advantage, so they settled for three points.

Sexton cancelled that kick out after another decent Irish attack came to a halt when Fraser Brown played the ball on the ground.

A clever Robbie Henshaw gave Ireland the chance to put some distance between the teams, but Peter O'Mahony was turned over at maul time and Murray compounded the error by giving away a penalty.

He was swiftly replaced by John Cooney, but it was the Scots who upped the ante and Hastings made it a four-point game once again after CJ Stander was harshly penalised at the breakdown.

Sexton stretched the lead again when Sam Johnson body-checked Andrew Conway but Ireland were forced to go through a long, taut defensive set with three minutes remaining only for Stander to come up with a sensational breakdown penalty on his own line.

Ross Byrne found touch, but Ireland closed the gap at the lineout and were forced into another defensive set. Devin Toner charged up and made an important tackle, Josh van der Flier forced a knock on and they only had to hold up the scrum and get the ball off the pitch to close out a difficult win.

IRELAND – J Larmour; A Conway, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton (capt) (R Byrne 73, C Murray; C Healy (D Kilcoyne 50-51) (A Porter 66), R Herring (R Kelleher 73), T Furlong (C Healy 78); I Henderson (D Toner 68), J Ryan; CJ Stander, J van der Flier, C Doris (P O'Mahony 5).

SCOTLAND --  S Hogg (capt); S Maitland, H Jones (C Harris 66), S Johnson (R Hutchinson 74), B Kinghorn; A Hastings, A Price (G Horne 65); R Sutherland (A Dell 65), F Brown (S McInally 46-51, 57), Z Fagerson (WP Nel 73); S Cummings, J Gray (B Toolis 65) J Ritchie, H Watson, N Haining (C du Preez 74).

Ref: M Raynal (France).

Here's the game as it happened:

Belfast Telegraph