Wales v Scotland: Townsend’s boys finish Six Nations in style

Gregor Townsend's side pick up their first win in Wales since 2002 with a gritty performance on a surreal day at the Parc y Scarlets

Scotland flanker Hamish Watson fends off Ryan Elias. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland flanker Hamish Watson fends off Ryan Elias. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Wales 10

Scotland 14

DAVID BARNES @ Parc y Scarlets

THE long wait is over. Scotland secured a first win in Wales for 18 years, and a first Six Nations win away from home against any opposition other than Italy in 10 years, and it was absolutely deserved as reward for their superior resilience and discipline.

It is the first time Scotland have won three games in a row in the same championship since 1996, when head coach Gregor Townsend was playing stand-off. The result means they finish fourth in the Six Nations table, just behind third placed Ireland on points difference.

Meanwhile, Wales have won only once in their five matches during the Championship, meaning it is their worst Six Nations campaign since 2007. Wayne Pivac, who took over from Warren Gatland as head coach after last year’s World Cup, is already under serious pressure.

It was a strange old occasion, without the fervent atmosphere we are used to seeing in these encounters, but the intensity on the pitch didn’t waver. It was a pretty scrappy affair, but a compelling spectacle.

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The horrific weather predictions didn’t materialise with the match kicking off in bright if gusty conditions.

Scotland got off to a promising start with props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland working in unison to win a turnover on the deck almost directly from kick-off, and then Liam Williams giving away a penalty for going off his feet at the next breakdown. That handed Finn Russell an opportunity at a tricky shot at goal from wide on the left, but his effort didn’t quite have the legs.

The Scots continued to have the upper hand, but the surreal atmosphere inside the empty Parc y Scarlets stadium and the treacherous wind contributed to both sides struggling to hold onto the ball long enough to build any real momentum.

Russell got another chance on 10 minutes when a high ball from Hogg caught in the wind and Owen Watkins ended up knocking on as he tried to gather on bounce. Ryan Elias picked up from an offside position. This time the Scotland stand-off nailed the points from directly in front of the posts.

Scotland continued to press but with not much profit against Wales’ suffocating defence, until a long, floated pass from Finn Russell put Blair Kinghorn in space on the left, but the winger had to check his run to gather the ball and Liam Williams snuffed out the threat. Scotland recycled and when the ball swung back to the right, a neat pass inside from Chris Harris to Stuart Hogg unpicked the Welsh defence for the first time, and a try was surely in the bag if the Scotland captain had held onto the ball for a few nano-seconds longer before making his return pass in order to take Dan Biggar out of the equation, but the Welsh stand-off was able to get across to Harris off.

During the opening quarter, Wales made 50 tackles to Scotland’s 10, which gave an indication of the general pattern of play. But the visitors had only three-points to show for all their territory and possession, and you could sense what was going to happen when Taulupe Faletau gathered a loose pass off his bootlaces and then angled an inch-perfect kick into the corner.

Scotland hooker Fraser Brown – who had been struggling with the wind all match, and who had just been given treatment on the pitch – overthrew the line-out to the tail. Elias gathered and a few powerful phases later, Rhys Carre burrowed across the line.

Worse still for Scotland, Russell hobbled off with what appeared to be a groin injury as Biggar slotted the conversion from directly in front of the posts.

With their tails up, Wales dominated the next seven or eight minutes, but Scotland weathered the storm, and they pulled it back to a one-point game in the last action of the first half when Adam Hastings dissected the posts following yet another ruck penalty conceded by the hosts.

The third quarter was a scrappy stalemate, with both teams managing the odd flash of attacking verve, but also coughing up too much ball in contact.

Three times Scotland had promising passages of play halted by being able to release the ball from maul situations, but finally they managed to get a rumble on, and got their reward with a line-out drive which was powered over the line by the whole pack – with James Lang, Harris and Graham adding their weight to the effort – before Stuart McInally flopped to the deck in the scoring zone.

Leigh Halfpenny struck back for Wales almost immediately when Hogg was penalised for playing on the deck, and it was back to a one-point game with 15 minutes to go, but this time it was the Scots with the narrow advantage.

Scotland lost their second stand-off of the match when Hastings – who had injured his shoulder early in the second half but battled on bravely with several threatening attacks – went off on 69 minutes, meaning scrum-half Scott Steele came on for his debut as a winger, with Kinghorn dropping to full-back, and Hogg shifting up to the No10 slot.

It brought to mind 2014, except this time Scotland only had a one-point, as opposed to a 12 point, lead to defend, but they kept their composure and shape excellently, with Ali Price, aided by Hogg, pulling the strings expertly to ensure that the final 10 minutes was played deep in Wales’ half.

Then, with two minutes to go, the hosts attempted a desperate final escape from their own 22, but Johnathan Davies fumbled the ball, and Shane Lewis-Hughes was penalised for going off his feet in the scramble to reclaim possession. Hogg stepped forward to drill home the points which put the gloss on a thoroughly deserved win.

Bark Blue Blood - Book

Teams –

Wales: L Halfpenny; L (Liam) Williams, J (Jonathan) Davies, O Watkin (N Tompkins 73), J Adams; D Biggar (R Patchell 42), G Davies (L (Lloyd) Williams 72); R Carre (W Jones 49), R Elias (S Parry 69), T Francis (D Lewis 57-73), W Rowlands (C Hill 57), AW Jones, S Lewis-Hughes, J (James) Davies, T Faletau (A Wainwright 69).

Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham (D van der Merwe 66), C Harris, J Lang, B Kinghorn; F Russell (A Hastings 31, S Steele 69), A Price; R Sutherland (O Kebble 53), F Brown (S McInally 53), Z Fagerson (S Berghan 53), S Cummings, J Gray, J Ritchie, H Watson, B Thomson (C du Preez 53).

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)

 

Scorers –

Wales: Try: Carre; Con: Biggar; Pen: Halfpenny.

Scotland: Try: McInally; Pen: Russell, Hastings, Hogg.

Scoring sequence (Wales first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 7-6 (h-t) 7-11; 10-11; 10-14.


Scarlets v Edinburgh: Nick Haining returns as visitors make five changes

 

 

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 2051 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

7 Comments

  1. A very good deserved win away from home. A lot of positives. Players and management growing into their roles. Nice to read the positive feed back. 🐻

  2. Tense win, which really should have been by a bigger margin.I looked at the Red Welsh line as in years before where Scottish hopes were often dashed but today we were much better. Still it was a great win considering we lost Finn and Hastings,(hope they are both OK). We have 2 weeks to get them fit before we have to bring back Pete Horne. Thought the forwards went well tonight , still not sure we have no8 right yet. The backs were hampered with the loss of Finn & Hastings, still not sure with the exception of Hogg and Graham if they our best options. I also think that Horne Jnr is our best scrum half.

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  3. As an exile in Wales, I can’t say how happy I am tonight.

    Great effort – think the thing I am most impressed with is the fact that it was an ugly win which we struggle with.

    Not a great performance, but a great win, and, by God,I cannae wait until my morning production meeting on Monday 😄

  4. Interested to see what other posters think on this.
    I had lost faith with Townsend after the 2019 RWC debacle, but think he has really turned things around and learned. Alot of this for me is down to some excellent management choices in terms of getting his new forwards coaching ticket of Tandy and De Villiers, what a difference! We are no longer a soft touch and genuinely look a difficult side to play against.
    Well done to the manager Townsend on growing and evolving within the job, surely some more good days lie in wait now.

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  5. That was a very pleasing outcome, a win in Wales long long overdue and makes up for the absolute calamity of 2010, a match that should have been wrapped up and was somehow inexplicably thrown away! Pretty poor game of rugby in testing conditions but from a Scottish perspective a really good outcome given we essentially lost both of our playmakers Russell and Hastings to injury, also given that we nowhere close to our attacking best either. A great forwards shift and Jamie Ritchie’s stock is rising all the time…surely a Lions contender.

    Not often that us Scots can sit back and enjoy ”winning ugly” especially away from home to the big boys, it is more often that not the valiant losses or hard luck stories.

    A nice Scottish malt whisky shall we consumed tonight 🙂

  6. Despite the criticism he got last week, Kinghorn played well I thought. Hastings brought his own brand of rugby with some penetrating runs. Graham should have been brought more into the game because he threatens each time he gets the ball. Price controlled the game well in the last 10 minutes but still seems to be following someone else’s script instead of creating attacking opportunities. Horne should be the starting scrum-half.

    • Agree about Kinghorn – he had a quiet game, which I mean as a compliment. Steady under the high ball and didn’t force things that weren’t on. Might have released Hastings having cut in off his wing towards the end of the first half, but generally the kind of mature performance we’ve been wanting to see from him.

      Thought Price was outstanding – particularly in the last 10 as you say, but generally well worth his place in the team I think.

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