Thursday 26 April 2018

Wales rally to leave Scots facing wooden spoon battle

Wales 27 Scotland 23

Wales’ Gareth Davies (right) celebrates his try with George North. Photo: PA
Wales’ Gareth Davies (right) celebrates his try with George North. Photo: PA
Jamie Roberts celebrates scoring Wales second try. Photo: PA
Dan Biggar of Wales kicks a conversion. Photo: Reuters

Paul Rees

Wales returned to try-scoring ways with a ninth successive victory over Scotland who, as in the World Cup, were angered at an offside decision given against them, this time in the build-up to Wales' first try.

It was scored by the scrumhalf Gareth Davies, who looked to be offside when he picked up Jamie Roberts's tap-back from a kick and, so convinced were the visiting players when they watched a replay of the incident as the TMO conducted his review that they jogged back to where the incident had taken place, but referee George Clancy ruled the other way.

Wales started quickly, Davies' seventh-minute try after he picked up a loose ball and sprinted 45 metres to score giving them impetus, but they then became sucked into a loose, unstructured game that suited Scotland.

Scotland were level within five minutes through Tommy Seymour. He was playing on the right wing after the withdrawal of Sean Maitland through injury brought Sean Lamont off the bench and a flyhalf, Ruaridh Jackson, on to it and managed to outdo Biggar in the air in the opening period. Seymour's try came from a kick, Finn Russell's chip eluding Tom James, but they had taken play through 21 phases, able not only to retain possession but to get in behind the defence. Twice Greig Laidlaw sniped from the base of the ruck, wrong-footing Sam Warburton on the second occasion.

If Scotland looked the more resourceful in possession, Wales were the stronger in the set-pieces. They stole three of Scotland's lineouts in the first 50 minutes and Biggar's first penalty came after WP Nel was ruled to have collapsed a scrum. Scotland also struggled to turn mauls into possession: three times they were prevented from recycling the ball.

It was from a scrum that Wales scored their decisive second try 17 minutes from the end when, trailing 16-13, they opted for a scrum under the posts rather than a guaranteed three points. Wales had spent much of the second period in retreat. Their two periods of pressure had followed fortunate breaks: a loose kick picked up by Davies freed George North, before John Hardie took the ball into contact but presented it gift-wrapped for James who had a clear, if long, run down the left wing before being hauled down by Taylor.

Warburton's decision to go for the scrum rather than the posts marked the game's turning point: three phases later, Roberts received a short pass and stretched out for the line. It was a simple try, one that made Wales's travails until then harder to work out. It finished off Scotland. Wales's third try, on 70 minutes, was soft. North came into midfield from his wing on a routine cutback and fended off a feeble challenge to gather speed and four more attempted tackles made minimal impact.

Scotland had gone into the half-time break the more satisfied of the two sides, and not only because they were 13-10 ahead. They looked the more comfortable in possession, but the pressure Wales had exerted up front was to take its toll. Biggar and Laidlaw exchanged penalties in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but for all their territorial advantage, Scotland were making mistakes.

Wales is a side that prides itself on fitness and it really told in the final 20 minutes, although Scotland had the final word when a rare hole in Wales's defensive line allowed Taylor to break through and score. Scotland had time to receive the restart but, typical of their evening, they lost control of the ball as they ran from their own 22-metre line and heard the whistle sound on their ninth consecutive defeat in the Six Nations, locking lock them into another wooden-spoon battle with Italy.

Wales, after Ireland's defeat in Paris, look England's main rivals for the title, but they will have to step up again.

Scorers - Wales: Davies try; Roberts try; North try; Biggar 2 cons, 3 pens. Scotland: Seymour try; Taylor try; Laidlaw con, 3 pens; Weir con.

Wales: Liam Williams; North, J Davies, Roberts, James; Biggar, G Davies; Evans, Baldwin, Lee; Charteris, Jones; Warburton (capt), Tipuric, Faletau. Subs used: Owens, Jenkins, Francis, B Davies, Lydiate, Lloyd Williams, Priestland, Anscombe.

Scotland: Hogg; Lamont, Bennett, Taylor, Seymour; Russell, Laidlaw (capt); Dickinson, Ford, Nel; R Gray; J Gray; Barclay, Hardie, Denton. Subs used: McInally, Reid, Fagerson, Swinson, Cowan, Hidalgo-Clyne, Weir, Jackson.

Referee: George Clancy.


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