Scotland defeat Wales at last [25/02/2017]

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Scotland sealed a first victory over Wales in ten years thanks to a vibrant second-half comeback, winning 29-13 at Murrayfield.

They had waited a decade for a victory over Wales, their last success coming at Murrayfield with a 21-9 win back in 2007, and ultimately were more than worthy victors after tries from Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser, remarkably winning the second half alone 20-0.

Finn Russell and Leigh Halfpenny traded early penalties before Wales grabbed the first try, Liam Williams finishing in the corner after some fine passing. Further points from both kickers made it 9-13 to Wales by the break.

However, Seymour’s early try in the second half swung the lead Scotland’s way, extended to 19-13 by another Russell penalty and despite significant Welsh pressure Visser was the next to score, set up brilliantly by Stuart Hogg, as Scotland opened up a 26-13 advantage, and from there the hosts never looked back.

Outstanding rush defence and work around the breakdown were both vital to Wales’ success in the first half, when Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric were ruthless.

But Scotland then took full command of the second quarter, holding firm and riding their luck in defence while imposing themselves at the ruck and taking two key chances.

Wales welcomed back George North with open arms as Scotland came in without the leadership of Josh Strauss at number eight along with captain Greig Laidlaw, and they coped well in spite of those absences, led superbly by John Barclay.

Scotland’s scrum was much maligned in the opening two matches but the first blood in that part of the set-piece went to the hosts. From the ensuing attack Wales were penalised for not rolling away, allowing Russell to open the scoring with an easy penalty; no repeat of his horrorshow conversion against France here.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Tim Visser of Scotland goes past Leigh Halfpenny of Wales to score his team's second try during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Wales at Murrayfield Stadium on February 25, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – FEBRUARY 25: Tim Visser of Scotland goes past Leigh Halfpenny of Wales to score his team’s second try during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Wales at Murrayfield Stadium on February 25, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Halfpenny responded to make it 3-3 after Scotland went off their feet in tentative, penalty-ridden start from both teams.

The frequency of referee John Lacey’s whistle was already beginning to irritate the Murrayfield crowd, no more so than when Dan Biggar appeared to over-egg a contest for the high ball from Tim Visser and subsequently won a penalty.

After 22 minutes the deadlock was finally broken. Opting for a quick tap from a free-kick, Wales then fizzed the ball wide through Scott Williams and Halfpenny to give Liam Williams enough space to use his speed, finishing in the corner. Halfpenny’s touchline conversion made it 10-3.

Not long after the future Saracens winger was away again, cantering down the touchline from Rhys Webb’s pass, only for the play to be brought back after Webb was ruled to have illegally pulled back a chasing Tommy Seymour.

A second Russell penalty closed the gap to four points as tempers seemed persistenly on the verge of boiling over.

Wales however were on top, their rush defence shutting Scotland down with Sam Warburton winning a breakdown penalty which Halfpenny duly converted to make it 13-6, before a rare miss let Scotland off the hook.

Only a remarkable turnover by Justin Tipuric five metres from the Welsh line denied Scotland a chance to respond, their sweeping attack stemming from Hogg’s grubber kick before Huw Jones did his best only to be hauled in by the cover defence.

Scotland did have something to show for their efforts after Warburton was penalised, Russell stepping up to make it 9-13, but it could have been more as Wales led by four points at half-time.

The home side tore into the start of the second half, Hogg’s quick footwork and delayed pass freeing up Tim Visser first and then Seymour, who finished to put Scotland ahead despite a phenomenal cover tackle from Scott Williams. Russell’s touchline conversion went through courtesy of the post, making it 16-13, as Murrayfield began to make herself heard.

Wales should have instantly hit back, Jonathan Davies charging clear deep into Scotland’s half from Ken Owens’ pass, but the resulting offload missed Webb to let Scotland off the hook.

It was they who scored next, via a fourth Russell penalty, but Webb was inches away from scoring himself, a sloppy Scottish scrum seeing Webb snap up the loose ball and race clear before Visser managed to get him into touch.

Both sides looked for impetus from their benches as the toil of the first 60 minutes began to show.

Scotland suddenly began to sparkle. A burst into Welsh territory continued to test the visitors’ defence, Russell loitering for the drop goal, before Henry Prygos sniped through a few phases later the ball was spun wide with Hogg providing the delicate final pass as Visser finished. Russell’s conversion from out wide made it 26-13.

All the momentum with ten minutes to go seemed to be with Scotland as Russell knocked over a fifth penalty, a beaming smile across his face hinting at a belief that the win was in Scotland’s hands.

He was right. Ahead by 16 points, Scotland successfully wound down the clock thanks to more excellent breakdown work from early replacement Hamish Watson to start the celebrations.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Seymour, Visser
Cons: Russell 2
Pens: Russell 5

For Wales:
Tries: L Williams
Cons: Halfpenny
Pens: Halfpenny 2

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts

Referee: Johnny Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)


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