Wales ex­ploit gaps in Scot­tish de­fence in clash of lit­tle value

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY - MICHAEL AYLWIN

Wales Scot­land

AN­OTHER Wales-Scot­land match in Cardiff, an­other Wales win. This one will res­onate least of the re­cent run of such re­sults, sneaked in at an un­fa­mil­iar time of year, the se­lec­tions com­pro­mised, the mo­tives sus­pect.

The really im­por­tant mat­ter lay be­yond rugby. This match will be re­mem­bered for the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Dod­die Weir Cup, in hon­our of the guest of hon­our, who is bat­tling mo­tor-neu­rone dis­ease with all the dig­nity and good hu­mour we have come to know so well.

Those who re­mem­ber what hap­pened on the field at all will at­tribute Wales’s win to su­pe­rior Welsh power, par­tic­u­larly through the out­side-cen­tre chan­nel, Huw Jones miss­ing the cru­cial tackle for each of Wales’s two tries. Ge­orge North went over for his 34th for Wales in the first half, and in the sec­ond it was Jonathan Davies sprung through the same gate.

No ar­gu­ing with the vic­tory, even if nei­ther side hit the heights bar in the odd surge here and there. Wales scored on those two oc­ca­sions that they threat­ened; Scot­land did not, Alex Dun­bar’s break through Hadleigh Parkes a high­light of their first half, and Pe­ter Horne’s near miss that of the sec­ond. Nei­ther side seemed en­tirely sure of them­selves at any stage.

Rugby is torn over these Tests out­side the in­ter­na­tional win­dow. The Welsh and Scot­tish unions man­aged to get this one past the wel­fare po­lice by an­nounc­ing it as in sup­port of Weir.

And then it tran­spired that no pro­ceeds from the game would be do­nated to his cause. Cue rugby’s lat­est hu­mil­i­at­ing climb­down, the two unions shamed into promis­ing a six-fig­ure do­na­tion to the for­mer Scot­land player’s cause.

It lent the match an un­cer­tain sta­tus, no-one really know­ing what to ex­pect from a fix­ture whose long and ex­cit­ing his­tory has over­whelm­ingly been con­signed to the first few months of the year.

Both sides felt their way in ac­cord­ingly. Any play­ers based out­side their re­spec­tive coun­tries were un­avail­able, so new com­bi­na­tions were on show in key po­si­tions for both teams.

Scot­land had promis­ing young­sters in the No 10 and 15 shirts, Adam Hast­ings’ se­lec­tion par­tic­u­larly an­tic­i­pated.

The son of Gavin got off to a nervy start, a cou­ple of loose kicks from hand hardly in­spir­ing con­fi­dence, but he has a swag­ger that bodes well, and he kicked with as­sur­ance from the tee to land a penalty and con­ver­sion in the sec­ond quar­ter.

By the time he’d landed the first, Wales were 9-0 up with­out really do­ing any­thing. Thir­teen penal­ties in the first half did not help the game’s flow, but it did give Leigh Half­penny the chance to do his thing from the tee, be­fore North regis­tered his lat­est try on the half-hour. Scot­land’s de­fence had been vig­or­ous, but North ex­ploded on to a pass from be­hind Jonathan Davies’s dummy run, and Huw Jones was done for.

Scot­land re­sponded swiftly to the 14-3 deficit that es­tab­lished. Stu­art McI­nally, cap­tain in the ab­sence of play­ers such as John Bar­clay and Greig Laid­law, fin­ished off a li­ne­out and drive that Wales de­fended with rather less vigour. They con­tin­ued their new dom­i­nance into the sec­ond half, but it was Wales who struck next.

Huw Jones was ex­posed again in de­fence, but this time it was more a case of his be­ing iso­lated in a mid­field be­witched by a sweet Welsh move from a li­ne­out. Gareth An­scombe looped men­ac­ingly be­hind Parkes and re­leased Jonathan Davies to get past the lonely Jones.

Wales took a grip of pro­ceed­ings. Scot­land looked at a loss to find a way through or around the wall, un­til they worked one down the right. Blair Kinghorn, ac­com­plished at full­back, com­bined with Tommy Sey­mour and Ge­orge Horne to set Alex Dun­bar at the line.

El­liot Dee was coaxed into a yel­low-card of­fence, and Scot­land thought they had scored through the Horne broth­ers. Ge­orge chipped in-goal, but Pe­ter could not quite man­age to ground the ball. It was as close as ei­ther side would come. They now wel­come the rest of their num­ber, as the au­tumn win­dow opens of­fi­cially.

Scor­ers — Wales: North, J Davies tries; Half­penny con, Half­penny pens (3). Scot­land: McI­nally try; Hast­ings con, Hast­ings pen. Wales: Half­penny; L Mor­gan, J Davies, Parkes, North; An­scombe, G Davies; N Smith, Owens, Lewis, Hill, A W Jones, Ly­di­ate, Tipuric, Mo­ri­arty. Reps: Dee, R Evans, Brown, Beard, Wain­wright, T Wil­liams, J Evans, S Evans.

Scot­land: Kinghorn; Sey­mour, H Jones, Dun­bar, L Jones; Hast­ings, Price; Dell, McI­nally, Nel, Too­lis, Gray, Ritchie, Wat­son, Wil­son. Reps: Brown, Al­lan, Berghan, Gilchrist, Fager­son, G Horne, P Horne, Gra­ham.

Ref­eree: M Ray­nal (France)

Ge­orge North touches down only for the try to be ruled out for a foot in touch dur­ing yes­ter­day’s match in Cardiff. Photo: David Davies

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