Wales produced a defensive masterclass to secure a thrilling 18-11 win over Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
While Scotland were looking to end Wales’ Grand Slam ambitions, the visitors’ superior defence and clinical attack saw them claim a well-deserved victory.
With this result, Wales move seven points clear at the top of the log. That means the pressure is now on second-placed England to beat Italy later in the day, while Ireland have to win against France on Sunday to keep their title hopes alive.
Wales are now one game away from clinching a 12th Grand Slam and their first since 2012. They will take on reigning champions Ireland at the Millennium Stadium in the final round next week.
Wales made an immediate statement of intent when they retrieved the ball from Gareth Anscombe’s kick-off, but once Scotland got their hands on the ball they were in control for the opening 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the hosts couldn’t convert pressure into points, because the Welsh defence re-formed and remained patient.
Finn Russell eventually did get Scotland ahead with a penalty, but when called upon to defend their line, they failed at the first time of asking. Wales needed just one opportunity on the ball to breach Scotland’s line when wing Josh Adams stood up to Blair Kinghorn, beaten on the outside all too easily, to score the visitors’ first try.
Scotland would create a couple more scoring opportunities, but those were also squandered. And their afternoon took an even worse turn when they lost four players – flank Jamie Ritchie, his replacement Hamish Watson, wing Tommy Seymour and fullback Kinghorn – to injury before the break.
Wales had no such problems. After Russell and Anscombe traded penalties, centre Jonathan Davies finished off a well-constructed try after a seven-phase attack for a 15-6 lead at the break.
In an unexpected turnaround after the interval, Scotland bossed the game and had Wales on the back foot right until the end of the game. Scotland retained possession well and pinned Wales inside the 22. But Wales’ physicality in defence and at the breakdown were their saving graces. The visitors were forced to make 194 tackles altogether and missed only 20.
Wing Darcy Graham slid over in the right-hand corner in the 58th minute to get Scotland to within four of Wales’ score. With the game in the balance, Scotland grew in confidence in the final quarter. But Wales scrambled well and absorbed the pressure to keep their Grand Slam dream alive.
Their stirring defensive effort was summed up late in the game when wing George North made a telling turnover on the 5m line, winning a much-needed penalty for his side. They kicked for touch and won another penalty after the lineout, which Anscombe kicked over the crossbar on the stroke of full-time to seal the result.
Wales – Tries: Josh Adams, Jonathan Davies. Conversion: Gareth Anscombe. Penalties: Anscombe (2).
Scotland – Try: Darcy Graham. Penalties: Finn Russell (2).
Scotland – 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Darcy Graham, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (c), 1 Allan Dell.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Byron McGuigan.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin.
Photo: Six Nations/Inpho