Report: Wales 26-27 Scotland

Report: Wales 26-27 Scotland

Scotland withstood a second-half barrage from Wales to record a first win in Cardiff since 2002 in an enthralling Guinness Men’s Six Nations encounter, retaining the Doddie Weir Cup in the process.

Much of this week’s news carried a story about an escapee Japanese macaque, who had managed to flee from the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore. A happy ending saw ‘Honshu’ eventually restored to his lodgings and with the same cheer, Scotland got a monkey off their backs with victory over Wales at the Principality Stadium – a first such win in 22 years.

Wales won the try count four to three but the visitors just about got home by the barest of all margins in a truly exceptional contest.

The opening exchanges were as tense as one might expect from a home side scratching around for only a second championship win in nine, and an opposition trying to banish the demons of the past two decades at this ground.

Scotland were a different, more controlled beast than in recent times, however. Maturity under a supposed maverick captain may have come as a surprise to some, but Finn Russell’s communication with his teammates led to scoreboard development throughout the first half.

Wales coughed up the game’s first penalty when adjudged offside after five minutes, with Russell clipping it over [0-3, 5 mins].

The visitors threatened to go over a few minutes later, only to fluff their lines – momentarily. Shortly after, Kyle Rowe scuttled through a hole in the Welsh defence on his first international start but namesake Steyn couldn’t get the resulting pass away to Huw Jones cleanly.

It was only a matter of time though, and it was the industrious Pierre Schoeman who delivered, the loosehead potentially dummying before burrowing underneath desperate Welsh defence for a fourth Scotland try, converted by the skipper [0-10, 11 mins].

Wales threatened through Nick Tompkins but Scotland’s defence was as organised and calm as their attack, with Schoeman showing his worth at the other end in forcing a knock-on from the opposing centre.

A quarter of the game in, Russell’s delicious 50:22 kick was more handsomely rewarded when Josh Adams prevented a quick Scottish line-out, giving away a penalty in the process which Russell nailed [0-13, 22 mins].

A period of sustained Welsh pressure was eased with a terrific George Turner turnover, and then Duhan struck. Taking a pop from Sione Tuipulotu, Russell feigned and dummied and put the winger in for his 22nd Scotland try, a figure to tie the great Chris Paterson. Russell converted to land a fourth kick from four [0-20, 30 mins].

With Scotland in the ascendancy, they managed the game through to the interval, with a TMO look into a Luke Crosbie correctly deemed not to have been foul play and a scrum penalty within kicking distance eschewed by a shellshocked home side.

Half-time: Wales 0-20 Scotland

If Scotland were impressive in the first half, they started the second with even more intent. And it had a familiar narrative. Similar, almost carbon copy in moments, Kyle Steyn took a Tomos Williams box kick and fed his captain, just as at Twickenham 12 months ago. Russell, imperious, timed his pass to van der Merwe who rounded the home defence to dot down for his second of the game and 23rd for Scotland. Russell landed a third conversion and at 27 points to the good, the game looked an awfully long way from being competitive still.

But Wales are unlike any rugby nation. From a position of despondency, they raged against defeat with a scarcely believable rally.

James Botham elicited the first proper noise from the home crowd when he barged over – George Turner sin-binned for his part in collapsing a maul in the process [5-27, 48 mins]. Wales were galvanised and Rio Dyer dotted down in the left corner with Ioan Lloyd, on at stand-off and impressive with it, converting [12-27, 53 mins].

Throwing caution to the wind and with another yellow card, this time for Sione Tuipulotu for persistent offside transgressions, the hosts went over for a third try through Aaron Wainwright on the hour mark to the delight of the now vociferous home support. [19-27, 61 mins].

Wales sensed something special, akin to their 2010 miracle, and debutant Alex Mann provided it when he rumbled over from a maul, which Lloyd converted to make it, somehow, a one-point battle for the last act [26-27, 68 mins}.

The madcap nature of this Cardiff cracker continued, even if the scoreboard was afforded a breather, as Luke Crosbie went off with nasty-looking eye and potential arm injuries after a brutish collision, before George Horne was penalised for not releasing as Wales sought that final gap through which to push to victory.

After conceding 14 penalties on the bounce, Scotland got the break they needed when Lloyd’s sloppy forward pass gave the visitors a scrum with two minutes to go. Reinvigorated for the final moments, the Scots bullied from the put-in and almost went in for a fourth try when Kyle Steyn raced clear. Van der Merwe was denied a hat-trick with the last play of the game for not being able to ground the ball, but Scotland had won, and their Guinness Men’s Six Nations is officially up and running with victory.

Full-time: Wales 26-27 Scotland

Wales: Cameron Winnett; Rio Dyer, Owen Watkin, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Sam Costelow, Gareth Davies; Corey Domachowski, Ryan Elias, Leon Brown, Dafydd Jenkins (capt), Adam Beard, James Botham, Tommy Reffell, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Kemsley Mathias, Keiron Assiratti, Teddy Williams, Alex Mann, Tomos Williams, Ioan Lloyd, Mason Grady.

Scotland: Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Warriors); Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu (all Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Finn Russell (Bath Rugby, captain), Ben White (Toulon); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Scott Cummings (all Glasgow Warriors), Luke Crosbie, Jamie Ritchie (both Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: Ewan Ashman (Edinburgh Rugby) (for Crosbie, 50 mins, temp.), Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs) (for Schoeman, 62 mins), Elliot Millar-Mills (Northampton Saints) (for Z Fagerson, 70 mins), Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby) (for Gray, 31 mins), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) (for Ritchie, 62 mins), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) (for White, 70 mins), Ben Healy (Edinburgh Rugby) Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby) ((for Crosbie, 72 mins).

Referee: Ben O’Keefe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Doleman and Angus Mabey (both New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

Crowd: 74,500

Guinness Player of the Match: Aaron Wainwright (Wales)

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