START with the positives,
The new-look Welsh back-row trio was good. Dafydd Jenkins looks like a good pick at lock. Wales created enough chances to do significantly better than the scoreline suggests. Nobody could doubt Welsh players’ commitment in the tackle.
And then there are the bad points. How long do you have?
The Welsh lineout was a mess, and time before the England game must be spent hitting a cow’s arse with a banjo for target practice. For all his exceptional qualities in other respects, Dan Biggar stands way too deep at fly-half, meaning the Welsh midfield must work twice as hard to cross the gain line. Wales’s handling was sloppy, and their kicking game was ineffective. Periods of pressure went unrewarded because of poor skills and indiscipline.
None of that downplays the Scots’ quality and sometimes scintillating handling in a game that Wales can look back on only with “ifs”, “whats”, and “maybes”.
To summarise: “meh”.
Wales’s new-look line-up did well in the first quarter. In contrast to the defeat to Ireland, the Welsh stifled Scotland’s attempts to run the ball, and the young back-row shone in the tackle and breakdown.
However, a misplaced kick landed in the hands of Scottish centre Huw Jones whose pace and power split the Welsh defensive line. With a seemingly inevitable try, some excellent Welsh defence shut down the opportunity, but at the cost of a penalty for offside. Finn Russell easily landed to give the Scots an early lead.
After an injury forced off Stuart Hogg, a reshuffled home backline looked more incisive. The midfield pressure increased as the Scottish pack and centres hammered away at the Welsh defence. However, it was an error in possession by the otherwise outstanding Tommy Reffell that gifted Russell a second penalty to make the score 6-0 to the homesters.
Wales came back hard, and the hard-working pack won a scrum penalty. Biggar’s attempt was off-target, and Scotland returned to the attack.
Josh Adams and Rio Dyer combined to halt Kyle Steyn’s run to the corner. However, from the resulting passage of play, Scotland parked themselves on the Welsh line, and hooker George Turner muscled his way over to give the Scots a 13-0 lead after Russell landed a simple two-pointer.
It was from hero to zero for Turner. Minutes after scoring the game’s opening try, he was in the sin bin for a swinging arm contact on George North.
With Scotlands down to 14, Wales took advantage and applied continuous pressure. From a short-range lineout, a Welsh maul drove Ken Owens over the line, and Wales went in 13-7 behind at the half after Dan Biggar added the extras.
The second half kicked off at a furious pace. Wales pressurised the Scottish line. Strong defence and Welsh handling errors compounded inaccuracy at the lineout and on the deck, allowing the Scots to break the shackles.
A solid Scottish lineout and smart recycling work at consecutive phases allowed Finn Russell the space to break for the line. As the Welsh cover defence got to him, the fly half produced an amazing skill. As he fell under Welsh pressure, he flipped the ball behind his back, and Steyn scored in the corner. Russell then landed a tricky conversion to place the Scots 20-7 ahead.
Wales’s task got harder when Liam Williams was pinged for an infringement around the breakdown and picked up a yellow card.
While 14-man Wales tried hard, the extra man told.
Russell chipped into space with the full-back missing and the Welsh stretched. Steyn cantered in for his second try after gathering the canny crosskick.
At 25-7, the Scots were out of sight and began piling on the pressure as Williams’s absence told.
Blair Kinghorn crossed for a fourth Scottish try to make it 30-7 with barely ten minutes left to full time. And, just before the final whistle, Matt Fagerson crossed for Scotland’s fifth and sealed a second victory and a 35-7 win for the home team.
Welsh coach Warren Gatland candidly assessed his team’s performance.
“We gave away 19 penalties in the game,” said the New Zealander, “which is not acceptable at this level.”
Expressing his frustration at Wales’s inability to convert pressure and position into points, he continued: “We created opportunities and weren’t clinical enough. We were in the 22 for about six minutes and didn’t come away with much. That’s pretty disappointing.
” We could quite easily have gone in at half-time ahead. When we were 20-7 down, we ended up chasing the game and giving away another yellow card in a crucial period.
“We kept giving clear messages during the week on being clinical when creating opportunities, discipline, and how important that was for the game. We need to be tough on that, given this result.”
Gatland praised Dafydd Jenkins’s performance and highlighted several good carries by Christ Tshiunza. He added that their performances were “among the positives”.
And Warren Gatland had good news for Welsh fans about Louis Rees-Zammitt: “Louis will be available for England. We must get back on the horse and be tough on ourselves ahead of that game.”