Wales survived a scare to clinch an important 27-23 win over Scotland in Saturday’s Six Nations clash in Cardiff. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Scotland had done enough to establish a 16-13 lead heading into the final quarter, and an upset looked very much on the cards, but two tries within six minutes – to Jamie Roberts and George North – ultimately swayed the result in Wales’ favour.
After their draw against Ireland last weekend, Wales will be well pleased with this result, but again they will lament a largely listless performance that required a late surge to ensure they put their Six Nations campaign back on track.
Heading into the match, Wales had won nine out of their last 10 Tests against Scotland, with the Scots having last clinched a victory over the Dragons back in 2007. Nevertheless, Scotland once again proved that they are a side that has developed into a well-drilled unit that can no longer be underestimated – as Australia discovered at last year’s World Cup, and as England did last weekend.
Wales made an encouraging start to the match when a Dan Biggar chip was won back on halfway, with scrumhalf Gareth Davies pouncing on the loose ball and darting away to score an early try.
Scotland hit back five minutes later, though, when winger Tommy Seymour latched onto a crosskick from flyhalf Finn Russell to dot down and help draw the scores level.
Seymour would emerge as one of the star performers in the first half, producing a series of impressive takes under the high ball, with the sturdy Scottish defence often forcing Wales to put boot to ball.
In the final 10 minutes of the first half, Greig Laidlaw and Biggar traded a penalty each, but it would be the former who struck a crucial three-pointer just before the break to hand the Scots a surprise 13-10 lead.
The Scots would have been thrilled with their return from the first period, but they did suffer a blow when star fullback Stuart Hogg hobbled from the field after half an hour.
After an engaging first-half battle, the game degenerated into a bit of a kicking duel at the start of the second stanza, with both sides adopting a low-risk approach.
Biggar and Laidlaw kept the scoreboard ticking over, but the Scots continued to hang onto a three-point lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
Wales looked set to retake the lead just before the hour mark when winger Tom James produced an 80m break down the left touchline, but a superb try-saving tackle from Duncan Taylor denied the hosts yet again.
However, Wales wouldn’t be denied in the 65th minute as Roberts burst over from close range to put the hosts back in front, with the Scots’ brave defence finally giving way.
North then produced an individual moment of magic to ghost over for the match-winning try just a few minutes later as Wales moved into a decisive 11-point lead.
Scotland scored a consolation try through Taylor, but Wales were able to hold on for the win.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins, Tomas Francis, Bradley Davies, Dan Lydiate, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Priestland, Gareth Anscombe.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Dave Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Sean Lamont.
Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images