25 Feb MATCH REPORT | Scotland 29 – 13 Wales
Scotland posted their first victory over Wales since 2007 in a display which saw the rich promise of the Ireland game return a spectacular harvest in front of a jubilant home support at a capacity BT Murrayfield this afternoon.
Two wins out of three in the 2017 RBS 6 Nations Championship and the prospect of a first Triple Crown in 27 years at Twickenham next month is now the prize that lies in store for head coach Vern Cotter and his troops.
Remember folks at half-time Wales were leading 13-9 and the “what haves” and “might have beens” that have afflicted Scotland in recent times were instead for the visitors to ponder, their goal-kicker miss-striking with a penalty which would have brought them a 16-6 lead.
But captained by John Barclay for the first time and with Finn Russell in the frontline goal-kicker role, this was unquestionably Scotland’s day. Russell garnered 19 points (and for that he was man of the match), including the two sublime conversions of quite superb tries from Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser.
Scotland kicked off towards the railway end of the ground. At the first scrum, on the half-way line, Wales were penalised and Finn Russell opted for territory, taking play to the Welsh 22. Richie Gray won the lineout, Scotland went through the phases and Huw Jones’ footwork opened up Wales inside their own 22. Soon the visitors infringed at a breakdown and Russell gave Scotland the lead from in front of the posts after six minutes.
In Wales’ response, after Richie Gray had been penalised for an illegal lineout challenge, Alun Wyn Jones pouched on the touchline and Rhys Webb made a menacing break. Scotland were penalised at the ruck and Leigh Halfpenny levelled (3-3, 12 mins).
From a free kick at the game’s second scrum Wales spun ball quickly left and Halfpenny sent Liam Williams in for a try that was simple in its construction but lethal in its execution. Halfpenny converted (3-10, 24 mins).
John Hardie departed after this score with his Edinburgh team-mate Hamish Watson enlisted in his stead.
Webb once again looked lively and all but uncorked Liam Williams up the West Stand touchline again, but an off the ball obstruction by Webb on Tommy Seymour was identified by the match officials with the assistance of English TMO Rowan Kitt.
Scotland, duly heartened, then launched an attack off the subsequent lineout penalty. Ali Price was scragged by a high tackle and though the referee played the advantage Halfpenny beat the chasing Hogg to the kick into the Welsh in-goal. Back to the penalty then and Russell cut into the Welsh lead (6-10, 28 mins).
The score was cancelled out within five minutes, however, as Halfpenny slotted from 40 metres after Ryan Wilson was guilty of holding on in the tackle (6-13, 33 mins).
As the interval loomed Halfpenny pushed wide with a penalty which had seemed at best marginal.
Then from George North being tackled into touch, Scotland took a quick lineout, Russell found Stuart Hogg and the full-back, with a crafty kick-ahead, saw Tommy Seymour regather. Jones then thundered in support and he was denied by a superb cover tackle by Justin Tipuric. From the lineout (from a turnover and hasty clearance) though Wales infringed at a ruck in front of their posts and Russell was on the mark with his third penalty, a breathless end to an absorbing half.
Half-time: Scotland 9 – 13 Wales
What an exhilarating start to the second-half! Scotland got their strike runners and heavy artillery running hard and true and when Hogg and Visser popped up at pace on the right, the latter sent Tommy Seymour in for a truly composed finish in the most claustrophobic of conditions. It was Seymour’s 15th try for his country and second in successive matches against Wales. Russell converted with the sweetest of in-offs and Scotland led (16-13, 44 mins).
The crowd were in full voice now but a penalty saw Wales stem the tide and then Jonathan Davies found a gaping hole in the home defence and it took a heroic saving tackle from Ali Price to rescue Scotland.
Price soon showed his uncanny unflappability close to ruck going first left then right to find space, which captain John Barclay embellished. Scotland moved play to the right and Wales were now on the receiving end of Mr Lacey’s whistle for Russell to nail his fourth penalty (19-13, 54 mins).
Price was replaced by Henry Pyrgos, who saw a ball squirt out from a scrum inside the Scotland 22 for Webb to escape up the touchline, only to be denied at the line by Visser’s tireless and oh so timely cover tackle.
If the big man is not exactly renowned for his defence we got a glorious reminder of the talent that is in his locker at the other end of the field with a quite exquisite piece of footwork so close to the touchline. Then the patient build-up with Hamish Watson once again detonating defensive shrapnel and Pyrgos all but escaping. The prep was rewarded though as Hogg’s perfectly timed pass sent Visser in for his 12th try, Russell maintained his 100 per cent record with the conversion (26-13, 66 mins).
Scotland had played with such wit and verve in the second-half and when Wales were penalised Russell’s radar did not desert him taking his tally to 19 points (29-13, 72 mins).
The remaining minutes were played out a soundtrack of raucous celebration. What a day!
Full-time: Scotland 29 – 13 Wales
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, John Barclay captain, John Hardie, Ryan Wilson.
Substitutes: Ross Ford for Brown (69 mins), Allan Dell for Reid (51 mins), Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, Hamish Watson for Hardie (24 mins), Henry Pyrgos for Price (55 mins), Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Rob Evans, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones captain, Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.
Substitutes: Scott Baldwin for Owens (66 mins), Nicky Smith for Rob Evans (66 mins), Samson Lee for Francis (58 mins), Luke Charteris for Ball (56 mins), Taulupe Faletau for Moriarty (62 mins), Gareth Davies, Sam Davies for Biggar (66 mins), Jamie Roberts for Scott Williams (62 mins).
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
RBS Man of the Match: Finn Russell (Scotland)