Scotland v Wales report: hosts pay the price for poor discipline

Gregor Townsend's men fail to build on their Six Nations opening weekend win over England

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones tackles Scotland's Darcy Graham. Image: © Craig Watson -
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones tackles Scotland's Darcy Graham. Image: © Craig Watson -

Scotland 24

Wales 25

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

SOME things never seem to change. The euphoria of last week’s first win at Twickenham in 38 years subsided into the familiar feeling of frustration at Murrayfield this afternoon as Scotland squandered a commanding 17-3 lead built up in the first half hour to lose narrowly but deservedly against Wales, amid a deluge of soft penalties conceded by the home team and a red-card for Zander Fagerson.

Scotland did not play badly. Stuart Hogg was outstanding again, Darcy Graham marked his return to the fold with a lively performance on the wing, and Jonny Gray deserves a nod of recognition for his relentlessness in the engine-room. But the team collectively lacked the laser-point focus of last week, which was perhaps inevitable given the inevitable comedown from the high emotion involved in that famous victory.

It would have meant an awful lot for this team to achieve back-to-back victories at the start of the Championship for the first time since 1996, which would have set them up nicely for a tilt at tournament favourites France in a fortnight’s time, but that consistency required to be serious contenders in the Six Nations remains elusive.

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Three penalties in the first five minutes – a collapsed scrum against Zander Fagerson, a side entry against Matt Fagerson and an offside against Chris Harris – set-up Leigh Halfpenny to edge the visitors into an early lead with an easy three-points from right in front of the posts.

To their credit, the Scots bit back almost immediately, barging up-field for Finn Russell to take the points after Alun Wyn Jones was called for not rolling away from a tackle, and it got even better for the home team when Russell ghosted past his marker then sent Gray on a thunderous charge up the middle of the park, to set in motion the move which culminated in Ali Price dinking an inch-perfect over the top for Graham to charge onto for the opening try.

Not to be outdone by his fellow Hawick man, Hogg then got in on the act by chasing his own chip forward and harassing opposite number Halfpenny into a fumble, before squirming over the line despite the close attention of Owen Watkin.

With Russell converting both those scores, it was all looking so positive for Gregor Townsend’s men, but then another flurry of penalties helped Wales back into the game, and a slick handling move from the visitors sent the excellent Louis Rees-Zammit over on the right-hand side to make 17-8 at the break.

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The start of the second half was a penalty-fest, with both teams getting on the wrong side of referee Matthew Carley, before Scotland eventually took the initiative when Graham raced onto a long line-out throw and made some good yards up the middle of the park, sparking an onslaught from which Gary Graham – a 13th minute substitute for the concussed Blade Thomson – eventually powered over the Welsh line, only for the try to be chalked off because of an obstruction by Scott Cummings.

Having missed out in seven points there, Scotland then saw their opponents pull seven points back to make it a two-point match, with Wales charging to the other end of the park for Rees-Zammit to send Liam Williams over for a try which was converted by Callum Sheedy.

Scotland then suffered that major setback when Fagerson was sent-off after his shoulder made contact with Wyn Jones’ head as he tried to clear the Welsh prop out at a ruck. It was a similar to the red-card picked up by Peter O’Mahony in last week’s match between Ireland and Wales, but this one wasn’t anywhere near as clear cut.

For starters, Jones was competing for the ball when Fagerson hit him whereas Tomas Francis was not, plus the Scotsman’s shoulder appeared to glance his opponent’s head as opposed to a full-force frontal collision as was the case with O’Mahony’s incident. That said, Fagerson put himself in the firing line by charging in without trying to wrap his arm, and we know there are very good reasons why referees are inclined to take a dim view of any sort of challenge which involves shoulders colliding with heads.

Wales took immediate advantage by kicking to the corner and it was Jones – who clearly wasn’t feeling any ill-effects from his recent collision with Fagerson – powered over. Sheedy converted to make it 17-20 to the visitors with 25 minutes to go.

Scotland had looked shell-shocked in the lead-up to that try, but they recored and set up camp deep in Welsh territory. Twice they were awarded penalties in front of the posts and opted to scrum instead of kicking the three easy points – and they got their reward when the ball was sent out to captain fantastic Stuart Hogg, who showed real pace and power to brush off Owen Watkin on his way to the line. Russell fired home the touchline conversion to make it 24-20 with just under 15 minutes to go.

But Wales weren’t finished yet and Rees-Zammit showed again what a talent he is when chipping ahead and then sweeping past Hogg to recapture the lead for his side.

Scotland held onto the ball during the final five minutes, but despite both Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe breaking Wales’ defensive line, they couldn’t find a way to get within range for the try, penalty or drop-goal that they needed.

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Scorers –

Scotland: S Hogg©; D Graham (W Nel 57), C Harris, J Lang (H Jones 71), D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price; R Sutherland, G Turner (D Cherry 69), Z Fagerson (O Kebble 69), S Cummings, J Gray, B Thomson (G Graham 12, R Gray 56), H Watson, M Fagerson.

Wales: L Halfpenny (U Halaholo 33); L Rees-Zammit, O Watkin, N Tompkins, L Williams; D Biggar (C Sheedy 48), G Davies (K Hardy 48); W Jones (R Jones 78), K Owens (E Dee 71), T Francis (L Brown 62), A Beard, AW Jones (W Rowlands 71), A Wainwright (J Botham 62), J Tipuric, T Faletau.


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Graham, Hogg 2; Cons: Russell 2; Pen: Russell;

Wales: Tries: Rees-Zammit 2, Williams, Jones; Con: Sheedy; Pen: Halfpenny;

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-3; 3-3; 8-3; 10-3; 15-3l; 17-3; 17-8 (h-t) 17-13; 17-18; 17-20; 22-20; 24-20; 24-25.

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About David Barnes 3912 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. With a forward down, why oh why did we not go to our elusive backs. Instead we did the thing Scotland cannot do – try and drive over in ones and twos. We never do it as an 8 man pack. I don’t like it, it is literally ‘boring’ but it is our perennial weakness. Our backs can be mercurial given fast ball off a heavy maul. Hogg and Russell are line breakers but Hogg on the run is spectacular but het insists on going one man too many.
    Bring back the elusive ‘ Cinderella’ playmaker Hughes. He sees spaces and options very quickly and gets through them more often than not by running great lines.

  2. A first half where we should have been out of sight, with a display good enough to have even Jerry Guscott waxing lyrical at half-time, and then the wheels came off.
    The disallowed try, indiscipline and the sending off were factors, all of our own doing, but why oh why did we sub-off a back for Fagerson?
    Always easier to play a forward down than a back ( we have form v Wales when Hogg saw red and were cut up by playing a back short and not subbing a forward) yet we had been most dangerous in the wide channels where Wales were struggling to defend.
    Even with a back short Hogg was able to score out wide.
    What was our objective?

    • Totally agree Keith, surprised none of the pundits mentioned that. I think it was a crucial error by Townsend, we’d then committed ourselves to putting everything through the pack. I also recalled Cardiff when Hogg was sent off and we were shredded after.

  3. The Wales Effect on full display again, dragging better teams into a bitter arm wrestle up front and forcing frustration and ill discipline from their opponents. Twice in two weeks Wales have won only because of this facet of their game.

  4. Bitterly disappointing afternoon punctuated by unnecessary penalties

    The accuracy from last week was missing though we saw some breathtaking rugby from Scotland we just couldn’t shut the door to a boisterous Wales.

    Can we perhaps get the professionals to do their jobs? It was experienced pro players who made critical errors at crucial points in the match that cost us.

  5. Indiscipline did for us more than anything else. Still a great squad we can expect good things from in the future. Good to see Ali Price varying his game – will make the opposing flankers pay attention to him (and not so much to Finn). Darcy Graham deserves to hang onto his place against France. I thought Huw Jones carried well during the short time he was on so he deserves to start also.

  6. Bitterly disappointed with that display. Yes, there were moments of individual brilliance but Scotland lacked the control and composure on view last week. Ritchie was hugely missed, his leadership and determination allied to his controlled aggression could have made the difference. One that got away!


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