By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Ireland go into Saturday’s final Five Nations game against Scotland in Edinburgh knowing that defeat will see them clutching yet another wooden spoon. Following impressive displays against both France and Wales, coach Warren Gatland described the aftermath of a lesson from England as "a couple of steps forward and then one back."
The Irish target was always to win two games — Wales and Scotland were identified as the best bets for victories, However, the recent track record against the Scots has been disastrous.
Ireland haven’t beaten Scotland in Edinburgh since 1985 and they haven’t beaten them anywhere since 1988. Players always ignore history when it suits them, but this litany of defeat is staring them in the face.
Gatland will certainly need his forwards to perform better than they did in a 27-15 loss to England on March 6. Only Jeremy Davidson and Dion O’Cuinneagain emerged with any credit, while seasoned campaigners like Keith Wood, Paul Wallace, Peter Clohessy and Victor Costello were anonymous.
The Scots, for their part, are on a high after a convincing win over Wales. Another victory this Saturday and they would still be in a chance of winning the championship. Ireland have it all to do.
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Meanwhile, the logjam at the top of the All-Ireland League showed no signs of disintegrating last weekend. Only Garryowen look certain of qualifying for the semifinals after a bloodless 22-0 home win over Blackrock.
The other three places rest between Buccaneers, Lansdowne, Cork Constitution, St. Mary’s and the champions, Shannon. Buccaneers kept their good run going with a 21-13 success against Young Munster. However, they still need one more win from their two remaining games, against Shannon and Lansdowne.
Lansdowne scraped home 25-24 against Ballymena, who know appear to be out of the race, while St. Mary’s defeated Terenure by 19-13 and Constitution pipped Clontarf by 17-16. Shannon got the better of relegated Galwegians, 31-3. However, they must beat both Buccaneers and Constitution to make the semifinals.