Wales hold off Scotland 21-10 in Cardiff
Coach Warren Gatland was counting positives after his Wales side won its November rugby test opener for the first time in 16 years.
One big positive was playing Scotland and not Australia on Saturday.
Scotland was held off 21-10 in Cardiff. Wales had to endure a 20-minute siege of its 22 by the Scots in the second half, played 10 minutes down a man, and still managed to keep the Scots scoreless.
“First game for four months, we were a bit rusty,” Gatland said. “If we had come up against Australia today, we might have struggled, with them coming in off the back of a Rugby Championship.”
The Welsh usually meet a southern hemisphere heavyweight in their November opener, but invited Scotland for only their second non-championship match in 135 years.
The scheduling paid off. Wales won a 10th straight home match against Scotland, and has won six straight overall for the first time in six years.
Gatland believes the cobwebs have been dusted off and they are in good shape for their next match: Australia.
“We scored some nice tries and will be better for that,” he said. “Scotland put us under a lot of pressure but we defended well. Put ourselves under pressure going down to 14. We came out of it pretty positively.”
Wales started better under the roof, Leigh Halfpenny kicking them 9-0 ahead and passing 700 points for the team.
George North, who had a try disallowed early, scored his 34th to leave Ieuan Evans behind to be third on the Wales all-time try-scorers list. From a scrum on the Scotland 22, North popped up in the line, far off his right wing, and slipped off centers Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar and carried Blair Kinghorn over the line in a superb solo try.
The 14-3 scoreline was fair on the run of play as Wales bossed the gainline.
But with five minutes to go, Scotland waived off a penalty shot in the 22 and went for a corner lineout. The Scots drove, sheared off the right and captain Stuart McInally barged over.
Scotland, crushed on the same ground in February, was trailing only 14-10 at halftime.
But not for long. The Wales backs played a set move to perfection off quick lineout ball. Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe doubled round Hadleigh Parkes, dummy runners fooled the Scots, and Jonathan Davies palmed off Jones and scooted 30 meters free to the tryline. This was Jones’ first test in a year after breaking his foot a year ago.
Scotland then made all the running, but Wales made all the stopping, even while replacement hooker Elliot Dee was sin-binned after repeated fouls in defense.
Scotland finally cracked when a seven-man Wales scrum earned a penalty against Scotland to relieve the siege.
Wales was forced to make 179 tackles overall, thwarting Scotland’s overwhelming territory and possession in the second half. The Scots had three try chances and were held up, stopped short, and the ball was dropped over the try-line.
They return home to face Fiji next weekend, while Wales look to end a 13-match, 10-year losing run to the Wallabies.
“It’s not about getting the monkey off the back,” Gatland said. “We’ve been unlucky at times but it would be nice to win next week and get a result. But the more important game will be at the World Cup (next year).
“They’ve got their own pressures back home and them needing performances and results, too. It’ll be interesting next week.”