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.
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.
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)
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.