Saturday 24 March 2018

Welsh jubilation swings on Hook

Scotland 6 Wales 24

Paul Rees

It may be stretching belief to say that Warren Gatland is off the hook after his change of outside-half prompted an end to a run of matches without a victory that extended back to last season's Six Nations, but most of what was good about a game that veered between the dank and the dismal came from James Hook, who was making his first start at 10 for 17 months.

Scotland put expectations on themselves in the build-up but, in taking play to Wales in the opening minutes, they presented the initiative to a side whose self-belief had been flattened by failure. Ambition amply exceeded aptitude for the home side, and two mistakes had a significant influence on the outcome when, on seven minutes, the wing Shane Williams scored his 21st try in the championship to set a Welsh record.

Wales took play through five phases before Hook, spotting the prop Allan Jacobsen in front of him on the Scotland 22, stepped into space. Although he seemed to have the pace to make the line, he made sure by feeding Williams. Wales became fuelled by self-belief and, as they applied pressure, so Scotland conceded penalties.

Hook put Wales 16-0 ahead after 22 minutes with three penalties that resulted from breakdown offences and at that stage the visitors had done nothing to upset the referee, George Clancy.

Their first two penalties resulted in yellow cards: Bradley Davies was sent to the sin-bin for playing the ball after a tackle as he tried to salvage an egregious knock-on by Phillips four minutes before Byrne tackled the wing Max Evans, whose brother Thom had seen his career end in Cardiff 12 months before after running into Byrne, around the neck. Wales looked comfortable even with 13 men and the more Scotland tried to move the ball, the more they exposed their own limitations.

Parks eventually kicked a penalty to reduce Wales' interval lead to 13 points, but the outside-half completely lost his way after the break, misdirecting kicks as well as passes, but Scotland kept playmaker Ruaridh Jackson on the bench, even when they had to take risks.

Scotland dominated the second period in terms of possession, but the more they moved the ball, the less they looked like scoring. Parks' second penalty brought Scotland to within 10 points, but it may as well have been 100. Even when they made ground, they could not breach the defence. A Walker run was ended by Hook, whose last contribution was to kick his fourth penalty.

Scorers -- Scotland: Parks 2 pens Wales: Williams 2 tries, Hook 4 pens, con

Scotland: Southwell (S Lamont 20); Walker, Ansbro, De Luca, Evans; Parks, R Lawson (Blair 46); Jacobsen, Ford (S Lawson 67), Murray (Low 46), Hines, Kellock (Capt; MacLeod 71), Brown, Barclay (Rennie 67), Vernon.

Wales: Byrne (Priestland 76); Stoddart, Roberts, J Davies, Williams; Hook (SM Jones 66), Phillips (Knoyle 75); James (Yapp 66), Rees (capt; Hibbard 75), Mitchell, B Davies, AW Jones (Turnbull 71), Lydiate (Thomas 53), Warburton, R Jones.

Referee: G Clancy (Eng).

Sunday Indo Sport

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport