Scotland (9) 18 Pens: Paterson (4), Parks Drop-goal: Parks Ireland (14) 21 Tries: Heaslip, Reddan, O'Gara Cons: O'Gara (3)
Highlights - Scotland 18-21 Ireland
By Aimee Lewis
Ireland's dominance over Scotland at Murrayfield continued but their victory was in doubt until the very end as the hosts gave a never-say-die performance.
The Irish scored three tries to none, with Jamie Heaslip and Eoin Reddan going over in the first half.
Ronan O'Gara scored and converted a try after the break to make it 21-9 to Ireland, but Scotland fought back.
Chris Paterson kicked 12 points while a drop-goal from replacement Dan Parks took Scotland to within three points.
But despite Scotland's strong rally, Ireland overcame their late jitters and showed discipline in the final minutes, something which had been lacking from their play for most of the match.
Today was all about winning - O'Gara
The defeat leaves Scotland coach Andy Robinson still searching for his second victory in the Six Nations - and a first at Murrayfield - since he took over in June 2009.
After starting the tournament with such hope the winless Scots, who next play England at Twickenham, face the very real prospect of going into the final week against Italy having to avoid the wooden spoon and a whitewash.
Ireland, who had won four of their previous six visits to Scotland, have hardly set the championship alight.
However, the result rather than the performance would have been more important to coach Declan Kidney following the defeat by France a fortnight ago and an unconvincing victory over Italy on the opening weekend.
Indeed, the question being asked before the match was which of the two sides would respond better after their poor starts to the Six Nations.
Neither team, though, sparkled and the first half was a tale of dreadful Scottish errors giving Ireland the opportunity to score two tries during their rare forays into opposition territory.
For Scotland, Paterson, kick by kick, nibbled away at the lead his team had generously handed the visitors.
The Scots had started promisingly, with 23-year-old outside-half Ruaridh Jackson, who was one of seven changes to the Scottish line-up and was making his first international start, missing a 50-metre penalty in the second minute.
Ireland foul play cost Scotland - Robinson
But, just as in their defeats by France and Wales, Scotland conceded an early try. With five minutes on the clock, poor communication in the Scottish defence allowed Heaslip to trot over for a converted try without a finger being laid on his 6ft 3in frame.
Ireland were not without their blemishes - they conceded eight penalties in the first half - and Paterson landed two penalties in quick succession to bring Scotland back to within a point with 17 minutes gone.
O'Gara missed a kick at goal, but it would not have concerned him overly, although by the time he departed the field the fly-half was still two points short of becoming only the fifth player to score 1,000 points in international rugby.
Some slack Scottish defending allowed scrum-half Reddan to score his first international try in the 29th minute.
Scotland made a hash of their line-out inside their own 22 and from the subsequent scrum Heaslip brushed aside Jackson and slipped the ball to Reddan, who scored underneath the posts to give O'Gara an easy conversion.
Again, Irish indiscipline, with Rory Best penalised for not releasing, allowed Paterson to reduce the gap to five points before the break.
The second half started as badly as the first for the Scots when loose-head prop Allan Jacobsen was sent to the sin bin by referee Nigel Owens for not hitting square in the scrum. In fact, the scrum was an area which had been a blot on the game.
Jacobson's absence, however, created space and spectators were treated to some running rugby which culminated in O'Gara, making his first start since the autumn internationals, dashing over for a try.
Flanker Sean O'Brien did most of the damage during the build-up, bursting through to leave would-be tacklers on their backsides, and O'Gara was the beneficiary, evading Ross Ford's tackle to run through underneath the posts, giving himself another easy conversion.
Declan Kidney relieved after Irish win
With Scotland under the cosh the television cameras predictably went in search of Robinson and, although there was no punching of doors, as had been the case during a dismal defeat by Wales, the coach appeared to be seething.
He made a number of changes, most notably the much-criticised Parks replacing his would-be successor Jackson, and just before the hour Paterson kicked another penalty after Ireland offended at the ruck.
Scotland managed to claw their way back into the game. Parks booted a penalty over after another Irish error at the ruck and a blistering break from Max Evans was rewarded with a Parks drop goal.
There was just three points in it and Ireland were looking nervous, but they just managed to hold on to record their second victory in this year's tournament.
Scotland: Paterson; Walker, De Luca, S Lamont, Evans; Jackson, Blair; Jacobsen, Ford, Low, Gray, Kellock, Brown, Barclay, Beattie.
Replacements: Danielli for Walker (75), Parks for Jackson (54), R Lawson for Blair (61), S Lawson for Ford (54), Cross for Low (67), Hines for Barclay (67), Vernon for Beattie (54).
Sin Bin: Jacobsen (44).
Ireland: Fitzgerald; Bowe, B O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Earls; O'Gara, Reddan; Healy, Best, Ross, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, O'Brien, D Wallace, Heaslip.
Replacements: Stringer for Reddan (61), Cronin for Best (61), Court for Ross (71), Cullen for O'Callaghan (67), Leamy for D Wallace (61).
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