IT would be stretching it to suggest Scotland beat themselves. Ireland are a better team and that more than anything was the difference in Dublin.

However, what it also true is that international rugby Test matches have been won by teams which have created far less gilt-edged opportunities than the Scots managed at the Aviva Stadium.

Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it.

On three separate occasions a bad pass cost Scotland a certain try, two of them would have been under the posts, and you won’t get away with that at any level, never mind at the home of European rugby's best international side.

Ireland scored an interception try and at the end of a bruising first half, with 90 seconds of regular time remaining, Scotland’s own line-out in Irish territory malfunctioned and the hosts went over again.

And at the breakdown, where Scotland dominated England, they were given a lesson by Ireland. It would be wrong to say that every time the ball was on the ground, referee Wayne Barnes pointed his arm in the direction of the Irish. But it felt that way.

Ireland won because they are a great team but Scotland should have made it more of a contest in terms of the scoreboard.

As it was, Joe Schmidt’s incredible team are (PLEASE PUT IN WHETHER THEY ARE CHAMPIONS OR NOT) and could win a Grand Slam should they beat England at Twickenham on Saturday, which just so happens to be St Patrick’s Day.

If they pull it off, and it would take a brave man to bet against it, the feat would go down as one of the greatest in Ireland’s sporting history.

Scotland will win in Italy next week and three victories from a Six Nations including the Calcutta Cup is not bad. But they will never be taken seriously, or as seriously as they would like, if their away form does not improve.

They actually took the lead after surviving a testing opening period, when Sean Maitland chased a kick and did brilliantly to get Keith Earls down and then get over the ball. It was a clear penalty and Greg Laidlaw converted a relatively straight-forward kick.

So far, so good. Scotland even began to throw the ball about. There was a fantastic move on the right touchline when Blair Kinghorn and Ryan Wilson produced sublime passes which set up Finn Russell whose misfortune was to run into a green wall.

Alas for Scotland’s No 8 Ryan Wilson, he took a bang in the head and groggily made his way from the field to be checked out. He was never seen again, and David Denton played for an hour.

There was so much talk of Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray before the match and the half-back pair came to life on 19 minutes. Sexton kicked and collected, his scrum-half partner was on his shoulder and would have had a run in on goal had John Barclay not read the situation and brought down the No 9.

It felt then, that for all Ireland’s possession, Scotland were beginning to build something. A Stuart Hogg dummy and off-load from the outside of his right hand got the Scotland fans on their feet. Their team kept attacking, the ball quickly recycled, and it was Ireland’s turn to do some defending.

But then Peter Horne went for a long pass which he didn’t get right, Huw Jones didn’t read the move, and Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale gratefully accepted a gift and ran under the posts. Sexton added the extras and with 18 minutes gone, Ireland were 7-3 ahead. It was a lead they were not to relinquish.

Basic errors began to creep in to Scotland’s game. There were missed passes, knock-ons and Hogg of all people didn’t find touch with a penalty. But the worst came when they blew the chance to retake the lead just before the half hour.

It began on the right wing when Russell took a line-out to himself, hesitated, then shifted the ball left and, within a split-second, Jones had chipped on, collected the ball, skipped past Robbie Earls and with Hogg only yards to his left, delayed what should have been a regular regulation pass which would have sent the Scotland full-back between the posts.

The look on Hogg’s face said it all. It was stupid more than careless. But there was still time in the half for it to get worse.

With 90 seconds remaining, Scotland won a line-out in Irish territory. They would have settled for 7-3 at half time so there were two outcomes open to them, one might have thought, which was to see out the 40 or attempt to sneak another score.

The throw from Stuart McInally was long and Ireland again were in no mood to refuse a gift and from Scotland being in an attacking position, in no time at all Stockdale sidestepped Blair Kinghorn and was over in the opposite corner. Sexton added the extras and Ireland led 14-3 at half time.

Within five minutes of the second half, the game was gone. From the back of rock-solid Irish scrum, the wonderful Murray spun away and got over the line and Sexton’s boot made it 21-3.

Scotland then had to take risks and it should have paid off when while playing an advantage Hogg was wild with a pass which would have set Kinghorn through on the line and then, midway thought the half, all Horne had to do was slip the ball to Jones who had only grass between the line and himself. Inexplicably, the centre tried to find Kinghorn with a much more difficult pass.

In-between those two misses, Scotland did put some passes together, and even held on to the ball, and Kinghorn finished with style in the corner. Laidlaw’s kick hit the bar and stayed the wrong side. It was that kind of day.

Irish substitute prop Sean Cronin bundled over from close range on 69 minutes for the bonus point and Sexton’s conversion ended the scoring. Scotland were left wondering what if.

Scorers: Scotland – Tries: Kinghorn: Cons: None: Pens: Laidlaw

Ireland – Tries Stockdale 2, Murray, Cronin: Con: Sexton 4

Referee: W Barnes (England)