Six Nations | Sexton guides Ireland to victory over Scotland
New Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has scored 19 points in Andy Farrell's side's 19-12 win over Scotland in Dublin.
Leinster out-half Sexton scored a try, a conversion and four penalties to ensure a winning start to the Six Nations for Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
Scotland fly-half Adam Hastings scored all 12 of the visitor's points.
Ireland rode their luck to make a winning start to the tournament, with Stuart Hogg inexplicably failing to ground the ball for a try in the 50th minute, and Trevor Towsend's team piling on considerable pressure in the closing stages of the match.
The Scots made the brighter stat, and took a fifth minute lead through Hastings' penalty after Ireland were slow in the ruck.
Ulster star and debutant Caelan Doris had to be withdrawn after suffering a head injury shortly before that penalty, with Peter O'Mahony coming on to replace him.
Ireland hit back in the 10th minute, capitalizing on an advantage from a penalty to breach the Scottish defence.
A move which started with a break from Jordan Larmour was finished off by Sexton after a clever Murray pass following a lineout.
Sexton duly converted to make it 7-3.
Scotland were awarded a penalty in the 16th minute after multiple scrum resets and Hastings split the posts to reduce the hosts' lead to a single point.
Sexton scored his first penalty five minutes before the interval after Ali Price strayed offside, before the Leinster star missed a second penalty.
Ireland led 10-6 at half time after a wild final few minutes of the half, with man of the match CJ Stander on hand to deny Scotland a good opportunity shortly before the break.
Robbie Henshaw replaced Garry Ringrose for the second half.
Sexton scored a penalty five minutes into the second half after good pressure from Farrell's men, but the 2018 Grand Slam winners failed to kick on and dominate the game.
Ireland had a lucky escape in the 50th minute when Hogg somehow dropped the ball before he could ground it in the corner.
Dave Kilcoyne, who had replaced Healy moments earlier, had to be withdrawn after suffering a head injury.
Hastings kept Townsend's side in the game with a penalty two minutes later, before Sexton responded in kind to restore Ireland's lead to 16-9.
#TeamOfUs Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton on Ireland's opening day win against Scotland.#ShoulderToShoulder #IREvSCO #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/fpJfCzn5uZ — Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 1, 2020
Ulster's John Cooney replaced Connor Murray on the hour mark, and produced some eye catching kicks into enemy territory.
Another Hastings penalty 14 minutes from time - after Stander failed to roll away from a tackle - ensured the nerves never fully dissipated at the Aviva.
Sexton nailed his fourth penalty in the 73rd minute after Sam Johnson blocked Andrew Conway illegally.
Scotland, who tasted defeat to Ireland in the World Cup in Japan, pushed for a way back into the game in the dying minutes.
Stander won a penalty under huge pressure, but the resulting kick eventually led to a 10-metre lineout for the away side.
Ireland defended doggedly, and were awarded a scrum as the clock ticked down.
After several resets, and the clock ticking over 80 minutes, Henshaw finally found touch to seal the first victory of the post-Schmidt era.
It was far from a vintage performance from Ireland, more in keeping with their 2019 displays than the highs of 2018, but Farrell will be relieved to start the Six Nations campaign with a win.
Elsewhere, reigning champions Wales produced a 42-0 whitewash against France in Cardiff, with Josh Adams bagging a hat-trick of tries.
#TeamOfUs Highlights from Ireland’s 19-12 #GuinnessSixNations win against Scotland. #shouldertoshoulder #IREvSCO pic.twitter.com/V9r8yEMUo6— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 1, 2020