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Rugby | Six Nations

Sean Maitland © Gallo Images

Scotland success excites Maitland



New Zealand-born Scotland wing Sean Maitland believes last week's Six Nations win over Ireland could be the start of a new era for a side under the caretaker charge of Australian coach Scott Johnson.

Sunday's gutsy 12-8 win at Murrayfield followed a victory over Italy and saw Scotland enjoying back-to-back Six Nations successes for the first time since 2001.

It also left Scotland level on four points with second-placed Wales in the table, and just two behind leaders England.

"It's a pretty great feeling," said Maitland, drafted in by Johnson this season. "This is just the start for our team."

Scotland's defeat of Ireland was a triumph of team spirit, with the Irish dominating more than 70 percent and territory and scoring the only try of the match through wing Craig Gilroy.

But they failed to kill the game off and Scotland, from 8-0 down early in the second half, saw their forwards provide a platform for scrum-half Greig Laidlaw to kick them into a winning position with four penalties.

Ireland did have one final chance to salvage a win but with 80 minutes up and in the last play of the game, debutant centre Luke Marshall knocked in sight of Scotland's try-line.

"I was really scared," said Maitland. "I thought they were going to get in for a try. But to hold out and show our courage on defence was very pleasing.

"It just shows the character of the men in this side."

Meanwhile Scotland prop Ryan Grant hailed Johnson's decision to move Laidlaw back to his more familiar position of scrum-half.

Laidlaw has been playing at fly-half for much of the season with club side Edinburgh but, following the test retirement of former Scotland No 9 Mike Blair, Johnson installed him at scrum-half.

And the way Laidlaw, the nephew of Scotland scrum-half great Roy Laidlaw, directed his pack as well as dictating play when his side did get their hands on the ball, suggested Johnson had made a smart call.

"Greig is a class, class player. He is great with the boot and a great marshal of the pack," said Grant.

"That's why he's perfect for the nine role. He speaks to the forwards and lets us know where we need to be. He does the same with the backs and has got a great understanding with them."

Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins, whose side saw off Italy 26-9 in Rome last weekend, refused to entertain talk of a March 16 Cardiff title shoot-out against Grand Slam-chasers England on the final day of the championship.

Instead the former Wales outside-half, who helped wreck England's bid for a Grand Slam when he kicked the winning conversion in a 32-31 win at Wembley in 1999, said the team would not take Scotland lightly when they faced the resurgent hosts at Murrayfield on March 9.

"They (Scotland) are the same as us – two wins out of three – and it is a home game for them," said Jenkins.

"They will fancy their chances against us and then to go to Paris on the final day with a chance of maybe them winning the championship.

"It was an excellent win for them on the weekend against Ireland. People talked afterwards about stats and possession, but if you have got the ball you have got to take your chances.

"Ireland didn't take their opportunities on Sunday, and Scotland kept hanging in there, dug in and kicked their kicks."

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