Louis Rees-Zammit scored a brace as Wales came from a 14-point deficit to beat a 14-man Scotland 25-24 at Murrayfield on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The result moved Wales to the top of the table with their second successive win after they beat Ireland – who had also been reduced to 14 men – last weekend. It is a remarkable turn of affairs considering that both Ireland and Scotland dominated possession and territory for large parts of their respective games against the Welsh.
For Scotland, it will be a return to earth after the highs of their historic victory over England at Twickenham last Saturday. Gregor Townsend’s side let themselves down with some of their decision-making in the second half, especially considering that they turned down a couple of kickable penalties, which may have proved the difference.
Through halfbacks Finn Russell and Ali Price, Scotland created havoc among the Welsh defence, as both players were finding space in the backfield with well-placed kicks. At half time, Scotland were dominating the territory battle with 71%, while 55% of their possession was in Wales’ 22-metre area.
Such was Scotland’s momentum, it was no surprise that they held a 17-3 lead in the first half, thanks to well-worked tries from Darcy Graham and captain Stuart Hogg.
However, towards the end of the first half, Wales were able to force a couple of penalties out of Scotland working their way into the opposition 22, before Louis Rees-Zammit scored near the corner to keep them in the contest.
Both teams missed attacking opportunities at the start of the second half, with Wales producing a strong defensive effort on their own tryline. The visitors then got themselves right back into the contest after another strong maul sucked in defenders, allowing the ball to be spread to Liam Williams to score.
Scotland’s hopes of regaining control of the match took a major blow when tighthead prop Zander Fagerson was red-carded for a dangerous cleanout during which he made contact with the head of an opposition player.
Wales immediately capitalised as Wyn Jones drove over the line from close range, giving the away side the lead for the first time since the seventh minute. However, Scotland regained the lead when, after a number of scrums five metres from the tryline, Hogg managed to get on the outside of two defenders and slide over the line. Russell’s conversion gave Scotland a four-point lead with 15 minutes to go.
Rees-Zammit set up a grandstand finish when he scored his second try after getting the ball out wide, chipping it over Hogg and outsprinting him to gather and dot down, giving Wales a one-point lead.
Louis Rees-Zammit only turned 20 earlier this month… pic.twitter.com/l3YzUKbWso
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) February 13, 2021
As they desperately tried to earn a penalty, Scotland had a linebreak through Duhan van der Merwe in overtime, but the wing was tap-tackled and his offload knocked backwards by a Welsh player, allowing the visitors to regain possession and kick the ball into touch.
Wales – Tries: Louis Rees-Zammit (2), Liam Williams, Wyn Jones. Conversions: Dan Biggar. Penalty: Halfpenny.
Scotland – Tries: Darcy Graham, Stuart Hogg (2). Conversions: Finn Russell (3). Penalty: Russell.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 James Botham, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Willis Halaholo.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 James Lang, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Subs: 16 David Cherry, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 WP Nel, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Huw Jones.
Photo: Getty Images