U20s 6N: Late Welsh surge breaks Scottish hearts

Scots decide to stand-down starting tight-head prop Ollie Blyth-Lafferty at last minute after discussion with Six Nations and World Rugby

Scotland Under-20s lost to Wales in Colwyn Bay. Image: Laszlo Geczo / Inpho
Scotland Under-20s lost to Wales in Colwyn Bay. Image: Laszlo Geczo / Inpho

Wales U20s 37

Scotland U20s 29

WALES gained revenge for their defeat at Scotstoun last year by producing an end-loaded performance that was considerably aided by the Scots being reduced to 14 men for the last ten minutes of what up until then had been a game of oscillating advantage at a packed Stadium CSM in Colwyn Bay. 

Scotland replacement loose-head prop Alex O’Driscoll was pinged for a deliberate knock-on late in the second half and that handed Wales the crucial psychological advantage they needed to stage a late rally, overtaking the Scots’ lead and then opening up an eight points gap that proved unbridgeable.

Up until that point Scotland had been able to hit back whenever Wales edged ahead, largely through the work of the forwards and in particular the success of their driving maul. Behind the scrum Wales looked the slicker unit with clever and accurate passing that contrasted with the Scots’ less fluent play.


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Scotland’s head coach, Kenny Murray, alluded to that last point saying: “I thought our nine and ten probably over-played a bit.” Overall, the Scots mentor exuded a sense of frustration after losing a match that he genuinely felt his team should have won after going into the break just three points down despite playing against a stiff breeze.

But despite a strong start to the second half in which Scotland regained the lead in the opening minutes, the momentum shifted towards the red dragon. “At half time we were pretty happy. We spoke about game management and about getting the ball in behind them and working on our kick-chase. But we just didn’t manage it well enough. We probably lost a couple of cheap line-outs and when we made some changes we lost a couple of penalties in the scrum, which went into tries,” explained Murray.

He added: “We’ve got to learn how to manage games better. At this level you get punished hard for errors”.

But despite the loss Murray is convinced that his side is performing better than last season, agreeing with the view that it is a big step-up from twelve months ago. “I feel we’re in a better place both physically and in terms of getting game time. But Wales as well [are better]. You look through their team and there’s some very good players. The Wales back-row has been playing regularly in the URC. Louie Hennessey has being playing games with Bath and Ackerman the same with the Dragons”.

As to the remainder of Scotland’s championship programme, Murray knows what’s required of his players. “We’ve got big games coming up. What we have to do is build on what we did well tonight. But ultimately we need to be more clinical when we get ourselves into the 22 and we need to manage the game better. I felt tonight we beat ourselves at times and that’s the thing that’s probably more frustrating than anything,” suggested Murray.

Despite the expected gloom, Scotland can be pleased with a performance that produced five tries of which only two were converted. Individually, a number of players excelled, among them back rows Liam McConnell and Freddy Douglas, second-row Euan McVie and prop Callum Norrie, while behind the scrum Kerr Yule showed strength at inside centre, Kerr Johnston had several exciting dashes and at full back Fergus Watson was safe at the back and powerful when going forward.

Overall, Scotland’s forward pack had the better of the Wales eight but this advantage was wiped out when changes were made in the second half. Scotland had listed Ollie Blyth-Lafferty in the starting team but a decision was made not to play the big Boroughmuir tighthead, who is still eligible to play under-18 rugby.

“We had been having discussion with Six Nations and World Rugby about playing Ollie. He’s able to play adult rugby and is all signed off but we just felt it’s a bit early for him at this level so we made the decision, really from a player welfare issue,” explained Murray.

As a result Scotland did not have the luxury of bringing Callum Norrie off the bench and instead had to use Norrie from the start. Scotland were also unfortunate to lose No 8, Tom Currie, after barely two minutes of play, the former Merchiston player requiring extensive on-field attention after receiving a head knock.

On the resumption of play Wales dominated possession and looked to have capitalised after setting up a maul and then working a clever move that put skipper Harri Ackerman in for a score.

The try however was chalked off after the intervention of the TMO whose radar eyes had spotted the scoring pass as forward. Having survived the early scare, the young Scots reversed the Welsh momentum gain with a couple of penalties and from the second of these the dark blues drove the line-out, the moving maul ending with a try for hooker Elliot Young.

Isaac Coates missed his conversion attempt but at the other end Wales stand-off Harri Wilde was on target with a successful penalty kick at goal to narrow Scotland’s lead to just two points.

 

A break by the Wales No 8 Morgan Morse, who starred for the Ospreys in their recent win in Johannesburg against the Lions,  all but produced a try for the home side, but if the men in red were thwarted in their scoring ambitions it was only temporary, Ackerman being the provider this time to put full back Huw Anderson over for a stylish try.

Scotland’s reply was swift and followed the script of their first score: a penalty kick to touch and then a powerfully driven line-out that ended with flanker Freddy Douglas touching down but the extra two points were missed after Coates’ conversion kick rebounded off the near upright.

The pendulum swung yet again, after Wales’ scrum half Ieuan Davies opened up the Scotland defence with a weaving run from a tap penalty to create space on the left for Anderson whose long looping pass gave wing Walker Price a stroll to the line.

Price then switched roles to creator, after the wing came off his  blind side beat before cutting through midfield to lay on a try for Morse, the conversion by Wilde giving Wales a 20-10 lead.

Scotland again hit back rapidly with a powerful run from full back Fergus Watson that brought play into the Wales red zone, allowing the visitors’ forwards to make repeated surges towards the Welsh line concluding with  a second try for Young.  Coates then made it a seven pointer to bring his side back to within three points of their opponents going into the break.

Playing with the strong wind at their backs Scotland quickly showed their intention to regain any lost ground with several defence-testing runs from the likes of Kerr Johnston and Amena Caqusau. But it was the Scots stronger maul weapon that brought them points when from a driven line-out the visitors pounded the Wales line before release of the ball to the backs allowed Kerr Yule to barge over for a short range try.

Coates’ conversion put the Scots in the lead but it was not to remain as Wales after benefitting from two penalties in quick succession moved the ball wide to Ackerman who forced his way over the line, Wilde’s missed conversion leaving the teams separated by just one point.

Once more Scotland hit back through their maul strength to provide a second try for Douglas but soon after the Scots were under pressure, made worse by the exile of O’Driscoll to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Wales then used their advantage to lay siege on the Scotland line before showing their superiority behind the scrum with a long pass from replacement stand-off Harri Ford that gave Price his second try, converted from wide out by Ford to put his side 32-29 ahead.

Scotland were chasing the game when they conceded the clinching Welsh try this time from a delicate kick ahead and the follow-up by Wales replacement scrum half Rhodri Lewis to seal seal victory for his side.

 

Teams –

Wales: H Anderson; H Rees-Weldon, L Hennessey (M Page 73), H Ackerman, W Price; H Wilde (H Ford  70), I Davies (R Lewis 62); J Morris (F Chapman  54), H Thomas (E Wood  58), K Hire (S Scott  45), J Green, N Thomas (H Beddall  48), O Thomas, L de la Rue, M Morse.

Scotland: F Watson (J Hocking 72); K Johnston, G Gwynn, K Yule, A Caqusau; I Coates, M Lock (E Davey 65); R Deans (A O’Driscoll  54), E Young (J Blyth-Lafferty  50), C Norrie (R Whitefield 67), E McVie (A Clarke 65), R Hart, L McConnell (M Job 73), D Douglas, T Currie ( Morris 2).

Referee: Jérémy Rozier (FFR)

 

Scorers –

Wales: Tries Anderson, Price 2, Morse, Ackerman, Lewis; Cons: Wilde, Ford; Pen: Wilde

Scotland: Tries: Young 2, Douglas 2, Yule; Cons: Coates 2.

Scoring sequence (Wales first):  0-5; 3-5; 8-5; 8-10; 13-10; 18-10; 20-10; 20-15; 20-17 (h-t) 20-22; 20-24; 25-24; 25-29; 30-29; 32-29; 37-29.


Six Nations: Wales v Scotland prediction: visitors to win by 15

About Alan Lorimer 369 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.

33 Comments

  1. The game was a great advert for the under 20’s
    Freddie Douglas at 7 was outstanding and shaded it over McConnell who was excellent too.
    Elliot Young took his 2 tries well with the maul an effective weapon, Yule and Fergus Watson the pick of the backs.
    But for a few moments of madness from replacement prop O Driscoll the game would have been ours.

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    • @CoachP Wouldn’t be too harsh on the lads. Looked like a bit too much too soon, that’s down to those that picked the team.

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    • Weird thought 9 had a good game, and I believe that was the 10’s debut game at under 20 as he was in u18’s last year… shall we get rid of him now one game in !

      • @Robbie. 10 obviously has a lot of potential or he wouldn’t have been there. Selected ahead of older/more experienced players, not his fault. Looked like nerves got the better of him, although he did settle down.

  2. Always a lot of personal stuff on the youth grade comments. Could we try to remember these lads aren’t responsible for who gets looked at and who doesn’t. None fail to put their bodies on the line against bigger opposition and if there are structural issues in the age grade set up (which there obviously are) and issues with individual coaches some constructive criticism is good but we need to lay off the players a bit.

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    • Could not agree more!
      Thank you
      It’s really sad to read people so negative towards some individuals.

      Sadly some peoples only joy in life is to criticise.

      These boys have done themselves very proud, very proud

      Keep going boys prove it to them or prove it to yourself but honestly it’s better if you do it for yourself!

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  3. I thought the lads played well for large parts of the game but sadly they leaked a few soft tries. Definitely a missed opportunity. The main standouts were in the forwards for me with the set piece going well, particularly the line out and I thought they had control of the game after going ahead at the start of the 2nd half. At this point they failed to manage the game ie put the ball down the wales end with the wind at their backs. They tried to handle the ball in their own half and made mistakes. The Welsh back line looked so much more threatening compared to us although i was impressed with the Scottish full back Watson who made some good runs and broke tackles.

    The do look more competitive and a lot to be encouraged about but work to do in their wide defence and well see over the next few games how they compare with the better Nations – England, Ireland and France.

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    • Just watched the second half of France u20 v Ireland u20. An excellent game and, ominously, a completely different level from Scotland v Wales last night (in terms of speed, physicality and skills). Hard to believe that the forwards on show were u20’s.

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  4. My heart goes out to Tom Currie and his closest, deeply frustrating for them all, hope you recover well.
    Thought the boys did good in parts, certainly entertaining. Good to see Young do well , after being on the fringes of the squad last year, despite the strong wind in the first half, the pack looked more cohesive and Douglas right place, right time, good technique. Wales back row just had more grunt and centres and wingers looked more skilful and threatening at the end of the day.
    My concern, and I said this last year, are the coaches. Murray ironic in saying ‘we must manage games better’. Genuinely wonder what 3D chess mind games he thinks he is playing when you select and announce a young lad to start at TH, let the media big him up through the week and then consider his player welfare afterwards. Yes he might be 130kg but World Rugby are very clear in their position on this, despite this in a pre game report Murray appears to use his selection as a dig at other squad members. What does that piece of ‘management’ do for the young lad, his family and in this instance Norrie/Whitefield who replaced him. He is not shy at throwing his players under the bus either, see post game interviews JWT last summer. Last night another report elsewhere, he muses, ‘our 9/10 overplayed’. Obviously wasn’t happy that Coates ignored pitch side directions and went for the corner despite his Team manager standing next to him with the kicking tee. Ref missed it as well. Townsend/Russell vibes.
    Murray may be a good ‘coach’ in SRU eyes but it appears he cannot manage and he should lay off criticising the boys for the same. The culture at the top seems wrong. Would be interested to see Murray’s 2023 end of year feedback report from his line manager. Is there one?
    Scotland U20s need a Jurgen Klopp looking after them not a Sean Dyce! There are not enough players to waste with third rate management.

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    • The TH still 17 and by WR laws he can’t play U20 (senior rugby) till he is 18. In Scotland there is the strength neck test which he passed , but WR doesn’t recognise it…. SRU didn’t know that it seems , hence he didn’t play aka players welfare reason !

      • the WR regulation says a front row cannot play elite senior rugby if still qualified for U18. Other positions it is permissable subject to other stuff
        Are U20s elite senior rugby?
        Regs also recognise that different unions have different definitions of U20, U18 etc – either start of season or calendar year, so looks like a player from one union could be disallowed while another of the actual same age from another union allowed
        Should have been cleared sooner (maybe the delay was WR, who would be surprised?)

    • Watched it back and it’s the captain that says go corner, not the 10 🤷‍♂️ Overall though they managed an away game pretty well, if there are “ Management failings” as Murray shuffles backwards quickly again ! That’s on him not 18-20 year old developing players that gave all tonight and a trigger happy ref never helps does it !

    • Barring a surprise win, Scotland are heading for the wooden spoon. I wonder if Murray and the rest of the coaching team will retain their jobs after that? Like many, I’m surprised they were given the nod for this 6 Nations campaign. Of course Murray will talk up improvements (he has to if he wants to keep his job), but results are the ultimate measure.

    • Agree, lack of pure leadership is one of the many maladies affecting the current age structure. The age grade debate is recorded elsewhere, so I won’t dig it back up, just to say with Malinder heading out, it’d be reasonable to think Murray’s coat is rightfully on a shoogly peg.

  5. Second half game management very poor after promising first forty. Surely more boot was needed with wind at Scotland’s backs. If we’d camped more in the Welsh corners afterthe break the rolling maul looked a cert to offer up more scores. Still plenty of positives though (Douglas, McConnell, Young, Yule, Watson) but the boys will need to up their game for the tougher tasks ahead.

  6. A very entertaining & competitive game. Well done to the lads. Although the team has certainly made big improvements from last year, unfortunately it looks like the competition have done likewise and to a greater extent. The second half certainly showed we don’t have the necessary strength in depth compared to Wales, but that’s only to be expected given the historical inadequacy of the SRU development/ pathway system and the lack of full time professional teams in Scotland to support the high level accelerated development of the players. My biggest concern though is not with the ability of this team but with the U20 team for next year as hardly any of these experienced players will remain age eligible. It will be interesting to see how the SRU will address this problem as it won’t be an easy & quick fix.

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  7. Will continue to respectfully disagree about Yule….he’s big and strong but slides off tackles and offers zero creativity. 10 tonight rather like the sub loose head was nowhere near really despite lots of serious intent n focus. 9 was smart and lively n took continual good options which kept us in game. 7 could be a serious player!! 11 defended well n in attack took good options n made good decisions despite paucity of possession. His compatriot on other wing should learn from that rather than wandering out of position whilst in defence.

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  8. Tonight’s game pretty much went as expected. Scotland’s driving maul is a great weapon, that’s where most of their tries came from last summer too, without it they’d really struggle for tries. A few of the lads really impressed – mostly forwards. Hope the lad that got injured early on is ok, what a sickener for him.

    I thought Kerr Yule was comfortably the best of the backs, the majority of them were quiet or ineffective. There’s a real lack of penetration from the backs, and defensively they struggle – some of the tries out wide were far too easy.

    I’ve seen a lot of this age group over the last 4 or 5 years, there are other backs out there that should be given an opportunity to show what they can do. He’s in the squad, Andy McLean should be getting a run at 10. Another, that isn’t even anywhere near the squad, is Charlie Greaves (playing Nat 1 I think), he has a terrific boot and is a very creative player, used to combine very well with Yule at u18 club level (in the West of Scotland side that got to the Scottish Cup final a couple of years ago). From that side Spence, Darroch and Shaheen are all with Prem clubs now, I believe all would improve the current u20 squad.

    Given Wales we’re the only side Scotland managed to beat last year, it’s going to be a challenging campaign.

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    • Having watched that west side nder 18 side I would think that spence and Yule merit selection at this level although I more spence is now playing at second row and not centre as he did in under 18 youth final.

      • @Nagasaki The question is whether they are potentially better than those in possession, and I’d say all are worth a shot at least. Greaves has the best boot I’ve seen on any u20 in Scotland (he’d have added to the points tally against Wales for sure). Spence is a very big quick/physical lad, think he’s still only 18. Darroch, Glasgow Hawks top try scorer last season and very quick/physical (likely lost to another international side already though). Shaheen a bit like another Yule, a strong ball carrier that makes penetrating runs. For me, at least a couple could of them could have started against Wales and improved the side. As far as I’m aware, none of them have even been called in to have a look at them in training in recent years.

        Based on performance against Wales, I’d certainly expect to see at least a couple of changes amongst the backs come the next game.

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    • Lot of fair comments but my contention will be to disagree about Yule….big strong kid but little else to not whilst the 15 was absolutely magnificent for me under high ball and running into broken field. The 7 was the difference between us being in the game and being humiliated. Truth is we may track close to Italy but we are not playing same sport as Ireland France n England

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      • You could maybe argue that Yule is a bit limited, but what he does do, he does very well. He’s big and strong and will get yards and score tries, he has done so at every level. Pretty sure he’ll be about the Scotland scene in the coming years. 15 did well, aided by some awful tackling by the Welsh (they weren’t a great side).

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    • Totally agree Scotia. The boys you mention should all be in the picture as far as selection is concerned. Greaves is a superb kicker and doing really well in Nat.1, Darroch was a standout at Hawks and top try scorer last year. Can’t understand why these lads are not involved.

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      • @Jim I was at a Prem (Hawks) match last season where Kenny Murray was in attendance to run the rule over several of his u20 squad that were on show. He watched the game, then stood and watched as a then 18 year old Darroch was deservedly presented with the Man of the Match award – the one u20 on the park that WASN’T (and still isn’t) part of his squad!

      • Doing really well in a relegated Nat1 team? He’s not even operating at the same level. So far removed from reality. If he was any good he wouldn’t be at GHK.

      • @Super T. The ‘if he was any good he wouldn’t be at GHK’ comment is nonsense. You really think that there aren’t plenty of players lower down in the National Leagues that couldn’t play Prem if they wanted to? Lots of reasons determine which club a player decides to play for, ability is just one of them. On the player in question, if you haven’t seen him, his kicking is better than any Prem player I’ve seen… and I’ve seen them all.

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      • Unfortunately Super T you have just exposed your lack of rugby knowledge.Regardless of a teams league position, Nat 1 is the perfect environment for an 18 year old to learn his trade. Too many youngsters are going into prem teams with no experience and then being dropped because the team they are with is fighting relegation and the coach won’t back them. Hawks is a case in point! I know all the players that Scotia has mentioned and they would all be capable of playing at 20’s level particularly with the coaching available to them at that level. The issue is the current crop are not being challenged by other players. If you are playing in the senior squad there are scores of players breathing down the necks of squad players.

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    • Good comments about widening the squad. Ross Darroch looked like a real prospect at u16 academy level, but for whatever reason he didn’t fit with what the then coach wanted (whatever that actually was). Watched him at Hawks, he looked sharp. I don’t understand the myopia the current coaching set up is affected with. Seems like once a boy is in, he’s in (happy to be corrected on that though) – Murray scared to lose face if he doesn’t select certain boys?

      • @Duncan Imagine how it would look if a player(s) was brought in from the cold after a couple of years, to be given the nod ahead of lads that have been part of the set-up for the entire time. It would be such an admission of failure, both in selection and training/player development. So, the same boys will keep their places no matter what… even if we lose Uruguay and struggle to win a single 6 Nations game.

  9. Cracking game, a real shame to see them lose but there are clearly several players – McConnell, Douglas and Yule in particular – with something about them. Hopefully we’ll see a better result for the men tomorrow.

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  10. Gutted for the lads, great game! I thought we had the upper hand for much of that match. Disappointing end to it. Take the positives from this game and build on it. The players gave their all and for most of the match it felt positive, some work ons in defence and selection. , good luck for the next match.

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