Under-20 Six Nations Championship Round 3, Broadwood Stadium, Scotland 24/2/2017 Scotland vs Wales Scotlands Craig Pringle and Alex Craig stop Kieran Williams scoring Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Craig Watson

DAVID BARNES @ Broadwood Stadium



SCOTLAND’S brightest young players learned a hard lesson about the cut-throat nature of elite sport last night, coming a distant second in terms of physicality, intensity and accuracy to a Welsh side which raced into a fourteen-point lead inside the first six minutes and never looked back.

Two tries late in the first half from number eight Tom Dodd and hooker Fraser Renwick provided a glimmer of hope that a better second half might be on the cards, but any optimism which might have existed about the Scots managing to rescue the match unraveled in a hopeless mess within two minutes of the restart when they meekly coughed up possession and then made a pig’s ear of gathering a kick ahead to hand the Welsh all the momentum at a crucial moment in the game.

The Scots did manage to score six tries, which is some sort of positive, but far too many easy points were coughed up for this game to ever be competitive, and head coach Sean Lineen was not trying to soft-soap this performance or result afterwards.

“The guys are finding out about the level they are now playing at. All these Welsh players are used to operating at a level where they have to deal with pressure, and that showed. Our boys tried hard, they came back just before half-time, but some individuals just made some big mistakes and we need to learn from that – it’s all we can do, really,” he said.

“We scored six tries and at times we did okay, but we fell off a lot of tackles – it is just where we are. Robbie Nairn came on and scored a couple of tries, Tom Dodd at number eight did alright as well, so you can look at individuals and little cameos – but as a team it just wasn’t good enough defensively.”

“The Welsh have some pretty handy players, but we made it pretty easy for them to look good.”

“It is a young group we’ve got here,” he continued. “The last couple of years have been really good and we knew this year was going to be inexperienced, so the game against Ireland was a good start for us, and against France we did pretty well towards the end, but this game was a real wake-up call. We are just not used to that physicality, and that when you make a mistake you are really punished – a few boys won’t be looking forward to the review next week.”

“To start like we did, to make those basic errors like we did – where did that come from? We gave them a 20-point start. It is incredibly disappointing.”

Rhun Williams, the Welsh full-back who scored a try for Cardiff Blues against Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness Pro 12 last month, issued notice after just sixteen seconds of what was in store when he ran back Charlie Shiel’s clearance kick and brushed past three weak tackles to take play deep into the Scottish 22; and by the time the game was six minutes old, visiting centre Cameron Lewis and winger Corrie Baldwin had helped themselves to tries.

Scotland were clearly flustered, as demonstrated when in the space of two minutes they lost a promising attacking line-out, then the talismanic Darcy Graham was stripped of the ball as he tried to make some headway in heavy traffic, and then stand-off Josh Henderson completely misjudged a high ball and ended up knocking on.

A penalty for Wales, kicked by stand-off Ben Jones from in-front of the posts, piled on the misery. Then the excellent Keiran Williams launched a bustling break from deep inside his own half, running over the top of one player and stepping his way past Ross McCann, before Stafford McDowell managed to squeeze the inside centre into touch just ten yards’ shy of the whitewash; meaning the irrepressible Welshman had to wait another ten minutes opening his account – this time he had a straight run to the line after a sweeping attack involving Ben Jones, Philip Jones and Dane Blacker left the hapless Scots grasping at shadows. Another Jones penalty made it 0-20 with just 20 minutes gone.

Scotland finally managed to get a foothold in the match in 34th minute when Connor Eastgate’s inch perfect kick into the corner put the Welsh under pressure five metres from their own line, and when the visiting line-out malfunctioned, Adam Nicol was on hand to pick up the debris and build the platform for Tom Dodd to eventually muscle over a few phases later.

An excellent kick chase from Charlie Shiel and Graham forced the Welsh to concede another close range line-out, and this time Fraser Renwick got the ball down after a powerful Scottish catch and drive.

A positive end to a half which had started badly, but then the young Scots shot themselves in the foot after just a minute of the second half, when stand-off Henderson fumbled an easy pass and then scrum-half Blacker’s kick ahead was allowed to bounce straight into full-back Williams’ arms for as easy a try as he is likely to have scored in his fledgling career.

Another powerful line-out drive gave Scotland their third try through skipper Callum Hunter-Hill, but Wales bounced right back, and after Kieran Williams had been denied what looked like a perfectly good score by the TMO, they eventually got try number five through prop Rhys Carre – with injury being added to insult when Eastgate was carted from the field with a leg injury after that score.

Replacement scrum-half Andrew Simmers spun out of two tackles to secure the Scots would at least get a bonus point out of the match, but two more tries from Kieran Williams and James Botham – the grandson of Sir Iain – ensured that Scots continued to be kept at arms length.

Robbie Nairn broke down the left wing for another Scottish try, which was soon cancelled out by Morgan Morris, before Nairn brought a curtain down on proceedings with his second and his team’s sixth score of the night.

“The guys are hurting massively, but what do you do? We’ll knuckle down and we’ll improve. We’ve got England in a couple weeks’ time, so the guys know how hard they have got to work,” concluded Lineen.

“It’s our job as a coaching group to keep improving them and keep them motivated. I feel for them but we have to use this to make us tighter as a group. The World Cup is our focus – it always has been. We’ll get better, but there is no magic wand.”

Teams –

Scotland: S McDowell; R McCann, C Pringle, C Eastgate, D Graham; J Henderson, C Shiel; F Bradbury, F Renwick, A Nicol, H Bain, C Hunter-Hill, A Craig, L Crosbie, T Dodd. Subs used: R Smith, D Winning, G Thornton, S McGinley, J Ure, A Simmers, C Hutchison, R Nairn.

Wales: R Williams; C Baldwin, C Lewis, K Williams, R Conbeer; B Jones, D Blacker; R Carre, C Tarrant, K Asseratti, S Moore, A Dombrandt, J Botham, W Jones, A Ward. Subs: O Hughes, S Thomas, C Coleman, M Williams, M Morris, R Morgan-Williams, A Robson, P Jones.

Referee: T Charabas (France)

Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Craig, Renwick, Hunter-Hill, Simmers, Nairn 2; Con: Eastgate, Henderson.

Wales: Tries: Lewis, K Williams 2, Baldwin, R Williams, Carre, Botham, Morris; Cons: Jones 8; Pen: Jones 3.

Scoring Sequence (Scotland first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 0-17; 0-20; 0-25; 0-27; 5-27; 10-27; 12-27 (h-t) 12-32; 12-34; 12-37; 17-37; 17-42; 17-44; 22-44; 24-44; 22-49; 22-51; 22-56; 22-58; 29-58; 29-63; 29-65; 34-65.

Man-of-the-Match: Pick any one of seven or eight rampant Welshmen, bit let’s go with Keiran Williams, who was a packet of dynamite at inside centre for the visitors.

Talking Point: Three losses from three outings in this Six Nations so far and performances are sliding – can these young Scots recapture that zing which was evident against Ireland three weeks ago in order to salvage something positive out of their remaining two matches?



Image: Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk



About David Barnes 3956 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.