Wales and Scot­land lay on a fit­ting trib­ute to courage of ‘hum­bled’ Weir

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Tom Cary at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium

For­get the un­seemly squab­bling over money; the bun­gled pub­lic re­la­tions which saw two unions shamed into an em­bar­rass­ing climb­down and the be­lated prom­ise of a “six-fig­ure do­na­tion” to Dod­die Weir’s foun­da­tion.

For­get the fact that this al­ways felt like a strange sort of a match from the out­set, ar­ranged out­side the in­ter­na­tional win­dow, with se­lec­tions com­pro­mised and mo­tives sus­pect.

When the man him­self stepped onto the pitch yes­ter­day, dressed in a half­blue half-red tar­tan suit, flanked by his wife Kathy and his three sons, and de­clared him­self “hum­bled” by the out­pour­ing of af­fec­tion for him from the rugby com­mu­nity, and all the con­tri­bu­tions made to his mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease char­ity, all cyn­i­cism dried up.

Weir’s ex­tra­or­di­nary courage and cheer­ful dis­po­si­tion, faced with such an aw­ful life sen­tence, was an­other re­minder to for­get the pol­i­tics and just en­joy the rugby. Most of the 63,188 fans – even the Scot­tish ones – duly did.

Scot­land lost again, of course. Their record at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium is abysmal. Ten de­feats and one win since it was opened in 1999.

But the re­sult felt of sec­ondary im­por­tance on the day. “It would have been lovely to have won it,” head coach Gre­gor Townsend said. “I looked up a cou­ple of times and Dod­die was on the big screen and the re­cep­tion he got from the sup­port­ers was fan­tas­tic.

“We put in a huge ef­fort into that game. We re­ally wanted to win the match and the tro­phy. We did ev­ery­thing we could to win it.”

The fact Scot­land did not came down to in­di­vid­ual de­fen­sive er­rors – Huw Jones in par­tic­u­lar will not en­joy Mon­day’s video review – and a lack of ac­cu­racy in at­tack. The vis­i­tors dom­i­nated for long pe­ri­ods, en­joy­ing 70 per cent pos­ses­sion and 80 per cent ter­ri­tory in the sec­ond half. But dis­al­lowed tries for Jonny Gray and Peter Horne proved fa­tal af­ter Ge­orge North and Jonathan Davies had scored for Wales ei­ther side of the break.

Wales head coach War­ren Gat­land, for his part, will be rel­a­tively sat­is­fied look­ing ahead to Aus­tralia next week­end, a match in which Wales will at­tempt to end a run of 13 suc­ces­sive de­feats against the Wallabies. This was a sixth suc­ces­sive win for his team. They were solid de­fen­sively. Dan Ly­di­ate, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric all buzzed about. Ken Owens was heroic af­ter cop­ping a bloody nose at the end of the first half. Gareth An­scombe, get­ting a rare run-out at 10, did well in at­tack, set­ting up Davies’s try.

And Gat­land will have been par­tic­u­larly pleased to see Dil­lon Lewis per­form well at tight­head. Ever the mas­ter of the mind games, Gat­land had men­tioned ear­lier in the week that Danny Wil­son, the for­mer Cardiff coach who is now Townsend’s as­sis­tant at Scot­land, had “never re­ally rated” Lewis.

Still, Scot­land will feel this was an op­por­tu­nity missed. The vis­i­tors en­joyed much of the pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory in the first 20 min­utes but did lit­tle with it.

Adam Hast­ings – the young War­riors fly-half who has had such a bright start to his do­mes­tic sea­son – got off to a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult start, fail­ing to find touch with an early penalty from the halfway line. The en­su­ing pe­riod of Welsh pos­ses­sion led to the penalty from which Leigh Half­penny put the hosts 3-0 ahead.

Wales were more solid in de­fence and sharper in at­tack, with An­scombe prod­ding and prob­ing to good ef­fect in the ab­sence of Dan Big­gar and Rhys Patchell. It re­mains to be seen whether the Kiwi-born play­maker has done enough to hang on to the Wales No 10 jersey on an ex­tended ba­sis.

Big­gar will be avail­able again next week­end and Gat­land said he would wait and see how Big­gar comes out of to­day’s Premier­ship Rugby Cup game at Wasps be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

It was a chip from An­scombe af­ter 15 min­utes that nearly pro­vided the game with its first try, North touch­ing down in the cor­ner only for re­plays to re­veal his foot had crossed the white­wash.

Scot­land, though, had strayed off­side in the build-up to that ef­fort al­low­ing Half­penny to dou­ble Wales’s ad­van­tage from the tee. Jonny Gray then gave away a need­less penalty, al­low­ing Half­penny to make it 9-0.

If that was frus­trat­ing, it was noth­ing to what fol­lowed. Jones’s pow­der-puff tackle on North al­lowed the wing, who had come off his flank in search of the ball, to cut through af­ter 30 min­utes. Alex Dun­bar and Blair Kinghorn tried to make amends for Jones’s er­ror but it was too late. It was North’s 34th try for his coun­try, plac­ing him third on the all-time list, just ahead of Ieuan Evans.

Af­ter Scot­land hit back through cap­tain and hooker Stu­art McI­nally, who bun­dled his way over from close range af­ter a driv­ing line-out, Jones had an­other mo­ment to for­get early in the sec­ond half when Davies handed him off far too eas­ily en route to his try. “Huw put his hand up in the chang­ing room straight away,” Townsend said. “They were er­rors which were big mis­takes in the game. He’s a player who trains re­ally hard but if you make er­rors at this level…”

He did not need to fin­ish that sen­tence. Gray might have scored but in­stead was pe­nalised for a dou­ble move­ment af­ter 62 min­utes. And Peter Horne re­ally ought to have scored with nine min­utes left af­ter rac­ing on to Ge­orge Horne’s chip kick, but dropped the ball in the act of ground­ing it.

“It’s a hard one to take,” Townsend re­flected. “We were a cou­ple of inches short of the try line [for Gray’s ef­fort]. But not only do we not get the try, we get a penalty against us. I think the ref­eree got it right though.

“And then there was Horne’s chance. We could have been more ac­cu­rate.”

Welsh dom­i­nance: Ge­orge North bun­dles his way over to make it 14-3 to Wales; (below) Dod­die Weir at the match

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