EDINBURGH — Scotland’s Australian interim head coach, Scott Johnson, jokingly compared his side to boxing great Muhammad Ali after they came from behind to see off Ireland 12-8 in the Six Nations at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Ireland had more than 70% territory and possession in the match and led 8-0 early in the second half after wing Craig Gilroy scored the only try of the game. But from then on, Scotland made their scrum superiority and forward dominance count, providing a platform for flyhalf Greig Laidlaw to kick all of their points with four penalties in a 100% return.
By contrast, debutant Ireland flyhalf Paddy Jackson, in for injured Jonathan Sexton, landed only one of four goal kicks.
When Ali beat George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire in 1974, thereby regaining the world heavyweight title, he backed himself onto the ropes in the early rounds and allowed his American opponent to punch himself out before delivering the knockout blow.
Scotland’s initial approach to Sunday’s match was anything but as deliberate as Ali’s celebrated strategy and they were lucky to be just 3-0 behind at half-time after Ireland spurned a couple of try-scoring chances.
"At half-time I was thinking it was like Ali-Foreman, lulling them into some false sense of security, my neck was getting sore looking down one side of the pitch," said Johnson, now the first Scotland coach since Ian McGeechan in 2001 to oversee back-to-back Six Nations wins.
The victory, coupled with a 34-10 defeat of Italy, left Scotland level on points with second-placed Wales and only two behind Grand Slam-chasers England.
Johnson acknowledged Scotland had ridden their luck against Ireland, who should have killed off the game before half-time.
"I kept talking about how the wins will come when we get our part right; this time we got the win without getting our part right," said Johnson, promoted from within the Scotland set-up following Andy Robinson’s resignation upon the shock loss to Tonga in November last year.