Gatland hails Wales' maturity
February 12, 2012
Dan Lydiate shone for Wales in and around the breakdown © Getty Images
Wales boss Warren Gatland praised his side's maturity after they saw off Scotland at the Millennium Stadium 27-13 on Saturday.
The sides had been level at 3-3 after a scrappy first half but Wales clicked into gear early in the second period to kill off a Scotland side who again paid for a lack of composure. Scrum-half Chris Cusiter's failure to gather Rhys Priestland's second-half kick-off sparked Scotland's implosion as it laid the platform for wing Alex Cuthbert to score the opening try, converted by Leigh Halfpenny.
Full-back Halfpenny, who ended the game with 22 points, then added his second penalty and two converted tries to punish Scottish ill-discipline as Nick De Luca and Rory Lamont saw yellow, effectively killing the game off with the score at 27-6 after three Welsh tries in 14 minutes.
Wales managed the victory despite having captain Sam Warburton ruled out before kick-off with the dead leg he suffered in Dublin last week, and lock Bradley Davies suspended following his tip tackle in the same game.
And it was his side's ability to deal with those obstacles that pleased Gatland most. He said: "We expected Scotland to be a lot tougher than maybe the public did. If you look at their numbers last week in terms of territory, possession and line breaks, they should have won that game against England.
"So we are very pleased with the result given the disruption of losing Sam Warburton, and having to adjust to the loss of Bradley Davies during the week, as well as being without three or four key players.
"That is a sign of the maturity of this team at the moment. They can handle these disruptions and it doesn't seem to affect them psychologically, they just go out and play the game so there are some very pleasing aspects on and off the field with this team at the moment."
But Gatland did not feel the period when Scotland had been down to 14 and 13 men had been the difference between the sides. "I felt we were playing well anyway regardless of whether it was 14 men, or 13 at one point. We upped the tempo, scored three tries," he said. "I think Leigh Halfpenny is probably not happy with a couple of centres as there were a couple of occasions where if they had passed him the ball they would have put him in space and he would have scored."
Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler, whose brother Steven is at the centre of an eligibility row after being named in Scotland's Six Nations squad, was handed the task of filling the boots of the talismanic Warburton, and produced a solid display to mark his first cap.
And Gatland praised the back-rower's contribution. "He had a good game, he made a couple of good carries," he said. "There was a moment in the second half after we had scored where he probably should have passed, but he took ball into contact and got turned over and conceded a penalty.
"But he has to be pretty happy with his debut in front of 74,000 at the Millennium Stadium, winning his first cap and getting a win. I hope he enjoys himself tonight and has a couple of quiet beers - he deserves it."
Wales also picked up injury problems during the game as wing George North and hooker Huw Bennett were forced off with ankle and calf problems respectively. But Gatland is hopeful of having the giant North available when his side go for a clean sweep of the home unions at Twickenham, and expects to have a handful of other players back.
He said: "George is hobbling around at the moment but it is just a rolled ankle. Ryan [Jones] has ice on his knee, he looks a bit sore at the moment but other than that, not too bad. We hope Sam will be right for England, Justin Tipuric should be fit as well and one or two of the second rows might be available as well.
"Huw Bennett might have a calf strain but Matthew Rees is hopeful of being fit for England as well."
While Wales end the weekend sitting top of the Six Nations table, Scotland are again languishing near the foot of the table. While Greig Laidlaw's consolation score did see Scotland register their first try in five Tests, this was a fourth-straight defeat for Andy Robinson's side and leaves the former England coach with just two wins from 12 Six Nations games in charge.
But Robinson refused to criticise his side, despite seeing errors rob them of a chance of victory for the second week running after their reverse against England at Murrayfield.
Robinson said: "The guys did not deliberately get sin-binned, but that's what happens in the game. Wales exploited the space really well and kept hold of the ball. When you are down to 13 men you are going to be put under pressure if a side is able to keep hold of the ball and keep a good shape and I thought they did that really well.
"You look at the small margins of the game and I have to say I am really proud of the way my team played. The endeavour that was shown, the attitude that was shown. But just after half-time there was an error and we have been punished for it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter