Planet Rugby

Welsh break Scottish hearts

13th February 2010 13:24

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Byrne try v Scotland

Lee Byrne starts the comeback

Wales fought back from 21-9 down to secure an extraordinary 31-24 win over Scotland in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Saturday.

Lee Byrne's try started the fightback in a second half of which nearly 80 per cent was played in the Scottish half.

Yet with four minutes to go at 24-14 ahead, the Scots must have believed it was theirs. Few others could have believed what came next.

Leigh Halfpenny finished off a move racing down the right wing as the Welsh pressure finally told. Stephen Jones converted to make it 24-21.

Then Phil Godman was yellow-carded for pulling James Hook back as he chased a clever kick through and Stephen Jones levelled the scores. The teams went back for the restart knowing there was only one play to go.

Wave after wave of Welsh pressure came again, with Sam Warburton making ground, clever handling keeping the ball alive and the Scots, down to thirteen men, stretched across the field. Alun-Wyn Jones took the ball on after Roberts and Hook had made the ground down the right and then out came the quick ball to Shane Williams, who accelerated under the posts for the winner. It was heady stuff alright! 17 points in the final four minutes is some going.

That was just as well, for the Welsh delivered a first half of withering ineptitude. In the first ten minutes alone they gifted the Scots a try with some lame tackling, left a high ball to each other, cost themselves a free kick on their own scrum and lost a line-out. Scotland must have thought it was their day.

The Scots were just as classy as the Welsh were ponderous. John Barclay took his early gift-wrapped try with aplomb and both sets of brothers - the Lamonts and the Evanses - were constant menaces, while Dan Parks' astute kicking ensured that the Welsh were kept guessing.

Once they had built their lead, with Max Evans finishing off a brilliant cross-kick from Parks and every entry into Welsh territory seeming to yield some form of score, the Scots did what we all know they can do: dig in. The tackling and coverage of the XV was marvellous. Ultimately though, not quite enough.

Andy Robinson was visibly fuming at the final whistle - we'll see if he can keep his temper in the post-match conference - but whether with frustration at his own team or at the officiating is a poser. He might have a few things to say about George Clancy, who never quite got a hold on everything that went on at the rucks, but he will undoubtedly have a few things to say on the subject of why the game was not irretrievably wrapped up. They had enough first-half chances.

There was also a change in the game with the exit of Thom Evans, carted off with what looked to be a nasty neck injury. With him went a fair bit of the threat and momentum.

Paterson led Scotland out, in tribute to him becoming the latest member of Test rugby's 100-cap club, joining such illustrious names as George Gregan, Philippe Sella and David Campese.

An open stadium roof - a rarity these days for Wales home games - revealed a leaden sky, but no sign of the rain which Wales boss Warren Gatland suggested Scotland had been hoping for.

The Scots quickly showed they did not require wet weather to assist them tactically as they stunned Wales with a ninth-minute try.

Paterson, who had received lengthy treatment for a knock to his shoulder, regained his feet in time to see Barclay smash through the combined defence of James Hook and Gareth Cooper.

Barclay's power was too much for them as he sprinted over for Scotland's first try since their opening autumn Test victory over Fiji three months ago.

Paterson added the conversion - his 35th successful Six Nations kick in a row - and blundering Wales could have few complaints at an early seven-point deficit.

And it got worse for the home side, despite Jones opening their account with a 15th-minute penalty.

Wales were horribly disorganised in defence, and Scotland took advantage with a second try after Parks played the role of creator following a neat drop-goal.

His clever kick behind the Welsh defence saw Max Evans - on the field as a blood replacement for his brother Thom - react quickest and ground possession just before the dead-ball line.

Referee George Clancy needed confirmation from television match official Geoff Warren before the try was awarded, and although Paterson's long kicking sequence ended through a missed conversion, Scotland quickly extended their lead.

Parks cancelled out Jones' second penalty for an 18-6 advantage, and Paterson then departed the action with Evans returning as a permanent, rather than temporary, substitute.

It was a sad way for Paterson's afternoon to end, yet he would have been thrilled with Scotland's dominant performance as he made his way off.

Wales pressed in search of a try, but the game was held up when wing Thom Evans suffered his injury following a shuddering midfield collision with Byrne.

The Glasgow player was carried off on a stretcher, appearing to be in a bad way, and it meant scrum-half replacement Mike Blair being pressed into emergency wing duty.

Wales piled on the pressure as half-time approached, but their game continued to be spiked by basic handling errors prior to Jones slotting a third penalty.

Scotland were good value for their 18-9 interval advantage, and Parks immediately extended it through another penalty after Cardiff Blues scrum-half Richie Rees replaced Cooper.Gatland, his patience close to running out, then made a triple substitution, sending on lock Bradley Davies, prop Gethin Jenkins and hooker Huw Bennett as Wales looked to lift the tempo.

And it had the desired effect as Shane Williams' arcing run and superb pass allowed to Byrne to cross in the corner, cutting Wales' deficit to seven points with 24 minutes left.

Parks though, the game's dominant figure, booted a second drop-goal, before Lawson was sin-binned and Halfpenny's late try, converted by Jones, set up a nerve-shredding finale as Jones drew Wales level with a penalty.

Then Williams struck during the game's final passage of play - raising his arm in triumph before crossing the line - and mayhem broke out around the stadium.

Man of the match: He had a hand in every Welsh try, including scoring the killer one. Arise, Shane Williams, your country salutes you!

Villain of the match: Phil Godman's moment of idiocy might well have been the costliest of all. Why bother?

Moment of the match: Only one possibility in a game like this: that winning try!

The scorers:

For Wales
Tries: Byrne, Halfpenny, S.Williams
Cons: S.Jones 2
Pens: S.Jones 3

For Scotland:
Tries: Barclay, M Evans
Con: Paterson
Pens: Parks 2
Drop goals: Parks 2

Yellow cards: Lawson (73, Scotland, slowing the ball down), Godman (79, Scotland, pulling chasing player back)

Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 James Hook, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Ryan Jones (capt), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Andy Powell, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Jonathan Thomas, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Sam Warburton, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Andrew Bishop, 22 Tom Shanklin.

Scotland: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Thom Evans, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Rory Lamont, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter (capt), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Al Kellock, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alastair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Richie Gray, 19 Alan MacDonald, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Phil Godman, 22 Max Evans.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)

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