Scotland Under-20s 52
DAVID BARNES @ Stadiwm Zip World
STAND-OFF Nathan Chamberlain scored three tries and kicked eight from eight for a personal haul of 32 points as Scotland Under-20s broke the half century in a Six Nations match for the first time ever, on a night when the game was able to recapture centre stage after a day of high confusion caused by the impact Covid-19.
The woefully late decision on Friday afternoon to call off the senior match in Cardiff had temporarily thrown this game into doubt, before it emerged that it would go ahead as scheduled but behind closed doors, with only a few hundred family and friends allowed access to the Stadiwm Zip World in North Wales. This is likely to be the last rugby any of us see for a while, and – from a Scottish perspective, at least – it was a fairly nourishing pre-hibernation feast.
It is the first time since 2016 that the young Scots have managed two wins in a single Six Nations campaign. They also defeated Italy away three weeks ago, and head coach Sean Lineen was clearly delighted at how his side have bounced back from a hugely disappointing 2018-19 season when they lost nine out of 10 competitive matches played. Last night’s 23 man squad contained 13 players who had some involvement the previous year.
“A lot of these players have been together a while,” said Lineen. “We’ve been competitive in every game – we could have won the England game – and just to be consistent is something that Scottish teams strive to be, and we’ve certainly got that with this group.
“We’ve worked hard on our skills and on not being scared to play. At the same time, having a good set-piece is vital. We don’t often get a good scrum and a good lineout in the same year, and to actually have a foundation makes a massive difference.”
The Scots fired out of the blocks to take the lead within four minutes when Rufus McLean tidied up an overthrown line-out and sniffed out a gap that he had more than enough gas to exploit. Chamberlain slotted the tricky conversion, then added a penalty earned by a dominant visiting scrum, and then weighed in again with a well taken try following some slick interplay by scrum-half Roan Frostwick and second-row Cameron Henderson.
Wales stand-off Sam Costelow had two long-range penalty attempts during the opening 40 minutes to get his team off the mark, but both fell short. The hosts did, however, strike first in the second half when a powerful line-out drive from 22 metres out surged over the whitewash for the appropriately named Morgan Strong to get the downward pressure.
That was the prompt for a flurry of tries. The Scots bounced straight back when flanker Connor Boyle started and finished a slick handling move from the tail of a line-out which also involved Jack Hill and Henderson, Welsh centre Bradley Roderick streaked home for his team’s second try, Chamberlain gathered his own chip ahead and stepped past the last defender to score again for Scotland, and then Welsh hooker Dom Booth showed a remarkable turn of pace when outstripping replacement Scots wing Jack Blain – who was just on the park and perhaps still finding his bearings after over a month out with an ankle injury – to chase down a kick-ahead as it bounced over the Scottish try line.
In the last quarter, Scotland grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck with Chamberlain claiming his hat-trick, before full-back Ollie Smith and centre Robbie McCallum, on an interception, eased the scoreboard past the half century mark.
Scotland: O Smith; R McLean, M Currie (C Scott 75), R McCallum, J Henry (J Blain 60); N Chamberlain, R Frostwick (K McGhie 70); T Lambert, E Ashman, M Wilson (G Breese 70), K Watt (J Campbell 50), C Henderson, J Hill (G Brown 58), C Boyle, R Darge.
Wales: I Lloyd; F Jones (L Scully 48), B Roderick (J Hawkins 65), A Owen, M Grady; S Costelow, E Evan (D Buckland 60); T Bavacqua, D Booth (W Griffiths 65), B Warren (H O’Connor 51), J Fender, B Carter, I Davies, J Morgan, M Strong.
Referee: Chris Busby
Scotland: Tries: McLean, Chamberlain 3, Boyle, Smith, McCallum; Cons: Chamberlain 7; Pen: Chamberlain.
Wales: Tries: Strong, Roderick, Booth; Con: Lloyd.
Scoring sequence (Wales first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-10; 0-15; 0-17 (h-t) 5-17; 5-22; 5-24; 10-24; 10-29; 10-31; 15-31; 17-31; 17-36; 17-38; 17-43; 17-45; 17-50; 17-52.