WEIR ON OUR WAY
WALES 21 SCOTLAND 10: BIG MATCH REPORT & REACTION IN TODAY’S SPORT PULLOUT
WALES enjoyed a rare victorious start to an autumn campaign, with tries from George North and Jonathan Davies extending their dominance over Scotland in Cardiff.
Alun Wyn Jones lifted the Doddie Weir Cup after a deserved triumph for the home side, who bossed the physical battle and were clinical when their chances arose.
The match wasn’t close to being a classic and was punctuated by the whistle of French referee Mathieu Raynal.
But head coach Warren Gatland will be content with the win – the first time Wales have won an autumn series opener since 2002.
Three Leigh Halfpenny penalties and a well-taken try from North helped Wales into a 14-10 lead at the break.
A try from a driving line-out for skipper Stuart McInally had kept Scotland in it just before half-time, but a slick backline move put centre Davies away for the match-winning score in front of a crowd of 63,188.
The Scots offered little in attack and Gatland will be aware that Australia will present different threats in Cardiff next week, but this was a decent start for Wales.
Here, Rob Lloyd looks at the main talking points.
DAN LYDIATE IS FIRMLY PART OF THE BIG BACK-ROW DEBATE
THE Ospreys blindside had spoken of making a fresh start for Wales after a couple of seasons plagued by injury.
The last of his 62 Wales caps had come against South Africa last autumn and, while he was injured, he has seen the likes of Aaron Shingler, Ellis Jenkins and Josh Navidi stake impressive claims for a regular spot in Gatland’s back row.
Had it not been for injuries, Lydiate might not have even made this autumn squad, but against Scotland, the Lion showed why he has been such a big favourite of Gatland over the years.
He was a stonewall presence on the gainline, hitting Scottish attackers backwards, was physical with ball in hand and won an early turnover at the breakdown, often slowing down the visitors’ ball.
When he left the field following Elliot Dee’s 70th-minute sin-binning, he had made 21 tackles without a miss.
Lydiate was beaten to the man-ofthe-match award by his regional team-mate Justin Tipuric – nobody could have argued if it had gone to the other Ospreys back-rower.
GARETH ANSCOMBE PUT A MARKER DOWN
WHO will be Wales’ starting fly-half in Japan next year is anyone’s guess at the moment, but in a match that has been billed as the start of the World Cup journey, Gareth Anscombe put in an impressive early marker.
There had been a little bit of pressure on the Cardiff Blues pivot going into the game in only his fourth start in his preferred No.10 jersey. But he finished it in the positive. There were a couple of errors he will be frustrated with, but he mixed his game up intelligently, with a smart chip through almost leading to a North first-half score.
It was also his well-timed pass that put Scarlets centre Davies away for Wales’ second of the match.
It was interesting to see Rhys Patchell, who has been suffering concussion issues in the last few weeks, part of Wales’ pre-match warm-up and, with Dan Biggar linking up with the squad ahead of next week’s Test with the Wallabies, it will be intriguing to see if Gatland gives Anscombe another run or offers an opportunity to one of his rivals.
A TALE OF TWO WINGERS
IT was an afternoon of contrasting fortunes for the two Ospreys flyers.
George North was a major weapon for Wales, however, on the opposite side of the field debutant Luke Morgan was a virtual spectator.
North took his first-half score brilliantly, shrugging off both Scotland centres on the way to his 34th try for his country, which took him above Ieuan Evans into third on his own in the all-time Wales try-scoring charts.
Earlier, he had a touchdown chalked off after putting a foot in touch while gathering a cross-field chip from Anscombe.
As for Morgan, his first Test appearance tended to pass him by.
The former Wales sevens star didn’t touch the ball in the opening 40 minutes, with a only couple of tackles to show for his first taste of international rugby.
He did eventually get his hands on the ball after 52 minutes, fielding a Scotland kick, but not a pass came his way until there was 65 minutes on the clock.
Hopefully, he will get another chance to show his attacking qualities.
SHAUN EDWARDS WILL BE A HAPPY MAN
THE defensive display was a major factor in Wales kicking off their autumn with a rare victory.
The linespeed from the likes of Tipuric, Lydiate, Ken Owens and Gareth Davies put the Scots and new fly-half Adam Hastings under constant pressure and it meant they were often hit behind the advantage line.
With Lydiate chopping down blue runners as only he does best, Scotland were unable to get any momentum to their attacking game.
The final stats showed Wales made 179 tackles to Scotland’s 99.
And with the home side conceding just one try, former rugby league man Edwards will be a happy man.
DODDIE WEIR IS AN INSPIRATION
THE former Scotland second row, who is battling motor neurone dis-
ease, received a lovely ovation when he took the field before kick-off.
Weir has been an inspiration in the way he has faced adversity and the warmth of feeling around the Principality Stadium spoke volumes.
Every time the television camera panned to him in the stands there was a smile on the big man’s face.
He even wore a special red and blue tartan for the occasion.
The thoughts of the rugby world are with him.
Doddie Weir and his family bring out the Trophy carrying his name before yesterday’s match
George North bursts through on his way to scoring Wales’ opener
Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies makes a break
It’s try time as Jonathan Davies goes over for Wales’ second of the day