Wales made it 2 out of 2 wins after running out 27 – 13 winners against Scotland on Sunday. Leigh Halfpenny was the star of the show as Wales blitzed Scotland in the first 15 minutes of the second half to ensure they maintain their perfect start to the campaign.
Wales came into this game on a massive high after last weeks narrow victory in Dublin. Scotland could be confident after putting in a good performance against England at Murrayfield but were still chasing a try from somewhere; it had been 4 games now.
A near capacity Millenium Stadium was left on edge during the 1st half with Wales unable to break the Scots for the majority of the first 40. The teams went in at the break with the scores level at 3 – 3 with Scotland feeling more buoyant than the home team after dominating first half possession. However the pressure was building on the Scots after another 40 minutes without a 5-pointer after prop Alan Jacobsen fumbles the ball inches from the Wales line. Could have been a different game if the Scots had managed to convert.
Wales were still in their shells until half time, and with George North limping off the field I began to worry about how the next 40 would go. So as last week James Hook came on at fullback and Halfpenny slid out to the wing.
Just 2 minutes in the second half and we had the first try. Wales came flying out of the changing rooms and but Scotland under immense pressure and they eventually had to burst. Alex Cuthbert charged over for his first try in international rugby and began to grow into the game with every minute that passed. The try was converted by Halfpenny and Wales led 10 – 3.
Then just 2 minutes later Scotland were reduced to 14 men when Jonathan Davies was tackled off the ball after hacking through by Nick De Luca; just as Wales were gathering momentum.
After both teams exchanged penalties Wales were leading 13 – 6. After 49 minutes Roberts once again got Wales over the gain line and the ball was recycled at speed. After carries from Gethin Jenkins and Dan Lydiate Scotland were stretched too far and Cuthbert put Halfpenny over for a try which he then converted, 20 – 6.
The visitors were then reduced to 13 men after Rory Lamont was penalised for an early tackle from an offside position after Wales had got in behind the Scots and looked ominous. Both yellow cards were completely justified.
2 minutes later Nick De Luca returned to the field to defend an attacking Welsh scrum just 5 metres out. With the Scots a man down and the open blindside at their mercy a simple 8,9 pop from Faletau to Phillips and Halfpenny latches on to the end of an offload and slides over unopposed in the corner. Things were looking ominous and Scotland were on their way to a hammering, 27 – 6.
However Scotland began to build some momentum, lively fullback Stuart Hogg is wrongly disallowed a try for a ghost knock-on in the 62nd minute. The Scots didn’t seem too disheartened and continued to batter the Welsh defence and eventually grabbed a try when Greig Laidlaw reaches out from less than a yard and gets it down to get the monkey off the back of the men in blue.
Scotland continued to put pressure on Wales but couldn’t manage a score in the final 15 minutes of the match. Wales showed ambition towards the end a ran from their own try line but also failed to convert after some fantastic open field running and the game finished 27 – 13 to the home side.
One of the players that really impressed me was Scotland winger Stuart Hogg. He looked extremely agile and seems like he has a really good habit of beating the first, he is a similar player to Shane Williams in that aspect. The flyer also impressed ex Wales fly half Jonathan Davies who thinks that Hogg has played his way into a starting jersey for the coming matches.
Leigh Halfpenny was tremendous again for Wales. After the debate over the kicking tee in the aftermath of the Ireland game it’s clear to see that the coaching staff made the correct decision in choosing Halfpenny. He kicked 5 from 6 and they weren’t all routine kicks so I think he’ll have the tee for the rest of the campaign. He also notched up two tries taking his total points tally to 22. Even though both tries were relatively simple the both needed to be finished and the inform Halfpenny was happy to oblige on both occasions.
I think Wales will be content with their victory rather than happy. However I think it’s important to consider that defences were on top in this game and both teams did try to throw the ball around – for which they should be commended. After losing captain Sam Warburton after he failed a late fitness test it fell to uncapped Scarlet Aaron Shingler to join a Welsh pack decimated by injuries, and on the day he did a good job.
A big concern for Welsh fans will be the injury to George North who limped off in the first half after what looked like a painful roll of his right ankle. However following an MRI scan on Monday it has been revealed that there is no major damage and North could return to training as soon as this coming Monday.
Also the news coming out of the Wales camp is that Warburton and Tipuric are due to be fit to face England in two weeks but hooker Huw Bennet is an injury doubt with a suspected torn calf muscle, and with Matthew Rees still out the number 2 jersey is expected to be worn by Ken Owens.