Greig Laidlaw kicked four second-half penalties as Scotland ground out a 12-8 victory over Ireland on Sunday to earn back-to-back victories in the Six Nations for the first time in 12 years.
Scotland can even dream of challenging for the title after recovering from an 8-0 deficit early in the second half, with Ireland failing to make the most of their 74 percent possession.
“We’re still in the tournament — we are in it up to our ears, and that’s great for the fans and the team,” interim Scotland coach Scott Johnson said. “But let’s not get carried away.”
Paddy Jackson, contentiously chosen as flyhalf ahead of Ronan O’Gara, booted the only points of the first half with a 35th-minute penalty for Ireland, before Craig Gilroy added a close-range try in the 43rd.
However, Laidlaw replied with four successive penalties and Scotland held firm on their own try-line in a breathless final few minutes to join Wales on four points, two behind Grand Slam-chasing England.
Scotland take on Wales on March 9 at Murrayfield in Edinburgh in a match that will determine which team challenges for the title on the final weekend.
It caps a remarkable reversal in fortunes for Scotland, who were in the doldrums after a chastening run of defeats in the autumn internationals last year that included a humiliating home loss to Tonga.
As for Ireland, it was their first tournament loss in Edinburgh since 2001, wrecking a title bid that had started so well by beating Wales away. Two weeks ago, they lost 12-6 to England.
“It’s all about taking your opportunities,” said Ireland coach Declan Kidney, who was without several key players due to a mixture of injury and suspension.
“We created several try-scoring opportunities, but we didn’t convert them to take us in front of Scotland’s penalty count,” he added.
Kidney was already under pressure before the match and the scrutiny on him will be even more intense in the buildup to the home match against France scheduled for March 9.
“There will always be questions asked, but it is about getting ready for the next game whether you win, lose or draw,” the Ireland coach said. “We created opportunities, but I will take a good look at myself this week, as will the rest of the guys around me.”