Wales win topsy-turvy Test with three tries against Scotland
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | February 13, 2016
Wales 27-23 Scotland
- Welsh scrum half Davies delivers terrific opener
- Seymour responds swiftly for Scots
- Both tries converted by kickers Biggar and Laidlaw
- Two penalties apiece keep it level, though visitors lead 10-13 at half-time
- Roberts restores Dragons lead with 15 minutes left
- North also crosses to give hosts victory
- Taylor’s first try a consolation for Tartan team
Tartan Team toppled in Dragons’ den again
Scotland’s wretched recent record in the Six Nations, and specifically against Wales, continued despite a spirited display, as the hosts won a topsy-turvy, open and absorbing encounter 27-23 in Cardiff.
Warren Gatland’s Dragons ended a three-match winless run against elite rugby union nations here, and odds for the Welsh to lift the trophy have now lengthened to 9/4 (from 15/8) with Coral as a result.
Biggar and Davies deliver early
Home team half back duo Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar, who proved his fitness despite being forced off in the 16-16 draw away to Ireland last week, did early damage to the Tartan team.
Vern Cotter’s crew yet again succumbed to conceding the first try, for the seventh successive Test, including all five Rugby World Cup matches.
Biggar’s beautifully chipped kick being flicked backwards by Jamie Roberts and then scooped up by Davies, who survived a hint of offside with a sublime angled run, saw him cross for the sixth time in seven internationals within seven minutes.
Seymour and Laidlaw lead response
Wales kicker Biggar then converted, yet the hosts’ lead was short-lived. Instead of crumbling, the Scots put together a determined 21-phase move that ended inside the quarter hour with Finn Russell lofting over to find Tommy Seymour in the corner.
His 12th try in 24 caps gave visiting skipper Greig Laidlaw a tough conversion angle for a right-footer, but he made it to restore the Tartan team to parity at 7-7.
Further Scottish pressure forced Biggar to boot clear from behind his own try-line, though they were poor at the resultant lineout, which gave the Dragons a breather.
John Barclay’s break had Wales exposed, yet his forward grubber failed to find either Mark Bennett or Stuart Hogg on a diagonal run and the ball trickled into touch.
Penalties aplenty keep score close
Two Laidlaw penalties either side of a Biggar riposte had Scotland ahead 7-10 and then 10-13 at half-time. Losing full back Hogg was a big blow for visiting coach Cotter.
Caught cheaply offside less than five minutes into the second-half, Biggar’s boot pegged the travelling Tartan team back with more penalty points making it 13-13.
A third Laidlaw penalty when a scrum collapsed edged them ahead again, then Tom James looked to have raced clear to put Wales back in front, but Duncan Taylor’s terrific covering tackle thwarted the hosts.
Wales exert authority
Multiple 5m scrums near the Scottish posts put the home side in the ascendancy, with resolute and desperate defending needed to deny them, including WP Nel’s last-ditch tackle on Jonathan Davies to stop a crossing.
It eventually told, despite the option to kick a penalty over the posts, and Roberts made it over the line to put the Dragons ahead at 18-16, followed by another Biggar conversion that extended the hosts’ newly established advantage to four points.
George North then sealed victory, profiting from tired tackles by evading them and arcing his run home. Again, the third Welsh try was converted.
Defiant Scots have hard luck again
Not content to let their hosts have the last word, Scotland responded with Taylor grabbing his maiden try and Laidlaw again converted to end the match 27-23.
While giving a much better account of themselves, the Scots performed more in line with their Rugby World Cup displays than their showing in the Calcutta Cup defeat last time out, but Cotter must eradicate lethargy in the opening minutes of matches.
The Tartan Army last witnessed an away win over Wales way back in 2002, with just two home victories since, and this was just another so nearly story. Gatland’s gutsy side will now go on to face the French in a Friday night fixture that may determine where the title is going.
France edge scrappy Irish encounter
Earlier in the day, another ugly home win for France, 10-9 over defending dual Six Nations champions Ireland courtesy of Maxime Medard’s converted try, maintained Les Bleus hope of a Grand Slam.
While the performance of Guy Noves’ side was again underwhelming, their physical approach, coupled with more cool kicking from Jules Plisson, ensures odds for a French triumph have plummeted to 7/2 (from 13/2 before a ball was kicked).
Already suffering considerably from injuries, Ireland lost recently returned duo Sean O’Brien and Dave Kearney midway through the first-half. Three Jonny Sexton penalties ensured a 9-3 interval lead for the visitors to the Stade de France, though their fly half was also forced off.
Concerted second-half pressure from Les Bleus, and leniency to Irish ill-discipline in and around defensive scrums from referee Jaco Peyper, eventually led to Medard profiting from a mistake to cross 10 minutes from time after no evidence of a previous grounding.
Joe Schmidt’s team have it all to do to secure a third successive Six Nations title, with Ireland out to 20/1 (from 3/1 before the tournament started), and likely need results elsewhere to go their way.