Tuesday 12 December 2017

Wales versus Scotland: Analysis

WALES kept their RBS 6 Nations championship hopes alive with a hard-fought 28-18 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield.

Here Press Association Sport's Andy Newport looks at a number of key factors in the match.




"We want to scrum," Scotland captain Kelly Brown told referee Craig Joubert at one point in the first half. But that was easier said than done. Wales dominated the early exchanges as home hooker Ross Ford was pulled up time and again for a lack of patience before the engage. Red Dragons prop Adam Jones was spoken to a couple of times himself for dragging down, but in general it was his side who enjoyed the better of the scrummaging contests.




Duncan Weir came in for his full Scotland debut but the 21-year-old Glasgow stand-off surrendered more possession than was needed from the boot. On the rare occasions that he did find touch, Wales were solid at the line-out. He tried an ambitious chip and charge in the first period but the little number nine simply does not have the pace to pull off that sort of trick. Dan Biggar, by contrast, paid more attention when opting to kick from fly-half and got his reward with the increasing chunks of Welsh possession and territory.




Welsh number 15 Leigh Halfpenny is many observers' choice to start at full-back for the Lions on the tour of Australia this summer, but Hogg's performances in the first three games of the RBS 6 Nations had propelled himself into contention. However, the Glasgow back may have counted himself out of the fight for a starting slot with an erratic display hallmarked by poor handling and indecision. Despite kicking 23 points, Halfpenny did not have his best match either, but he looked the more likely to get the nod from Warren Gatland.




Scotland were forced to scramble far more often than they liked to keep Ireland at bay last time out. Wales did not come anywhere near putting the hosts under similar heavy pressure, yet still crossed for a try from Richard Hibbard. Tim Visser put in a great last-ditch tackle in the build-up but the ease with which Wales worked the ball into a scoring position was enough to madden Dark Blues head coach Scott Johnson. Wales have now gone three-and-a-half games without conceding a try and it was easy to see why. Rock solid.




With a picky referee in Craig Joubert, both teams were under pressure to do it by the book. The hosts, though, did not get that memo. Euan Murray was lucky to escape handing Wales three points when his lazy offside inside his own 22 after 25 minutes was picked up. Jim Hamilton was not so fortunate as his inexplicable rush of blood to the head in being caught offside himself just before the break did gift the visitors a half-time lead. While the Welsh managed to keep level heads at crucial points, Scotland continued to leak needless points after the restart. At this level, you just cannot afford to hand such presents to the opposition.

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