Wales fight past unlucky Scots
February 12, 2006
Wales skipper Gareth Thomas dots down to score
© Getty Images
Wales got their Six Nations title bid off the starting grid at the second attempt, but Scotland's performance in its own way underlined the sense of revival that Frank Hadden has brought about almost as much as the sensational victory over France.
Reduced to 14 men for almost an hour by the harsh sending-off of Scott Murray, Scotland inevitably conceded tries, but they continued to play both a spirit and a sense of adventure that has been missing in recent years and got their reward with two late tries that made the scoreline a fair reflection of the match.
Wales , as you would expect from their fluency of style, took advantage of Scotland 's depletion, and will be delighted to have seen Michael Owen back in something like last season's form. But there was never any sign of a repetition of the points deluge they achieved last season at Murrayfield.
Leading 14-6 at the break, they were grateful for Gareth Thomas's solidity in the tackle when Scottish centre Andrew Henderson broke through in the 50 th minute, and within two minutes had extended their lead to an all-but decisive three-score margin. Mark Jones counter-punched down the right and kicked on, forcing Chris Paterson to run into touch close to his own line. Wales won the line-out, went through the phases and Dwayne Peel's dart and offload meant Robert Sidoli had only to catch and plunge for his second try in 32 internationals. Steve Jones converted.
Peel played a vital role again as Wales pulled further ahead in the 62 nd minute, providing the vital link and break to send Gareth Thomas over for his 36 th try in 88 matches for Wales . Jones converted again.
The final quarter lose shape amid the hail of replacements characteristic of matches already settled, the most noteworthy of them giving Gareth Delve his first - but surely not his last - Wales cap as he replaced Colin Charvis. Scotland continued to battle and received a richly deserved reward as Hugo Southwell plunged over on the far right in the 78 th minute. Paterson 's conversion struck the post., but within a minute he had intercepted a loose Welsh pass to charge 70 yards to the line and cross under the posts. This time there was no mistake with the final kick of a lively contest.
Wales had seized an early first-half lead by forcing Scotland into the sort of errors they did not make against France . Charvis throttled a blind-side break by Mike Blair and Peel's quick tap from the ensuing penalty launched an attack that was only halted when Mark Jones was forced into touch five yards short on the Welsh right. Scott Lawson overthrew at the line-out and Owen gathered to charge to within a yard.
While he was halted, it was at the cost of the first of a succession of Welsh scrums whose likely outcome - as Wales blasted the Scottish pack backwards - seemed likely sometime before Jason White broke early from the Scottish back row to impede Owen and concede a penalty try, which Stephen Jones converted.
But if the Scots were disheartened by the early setback it did not show as they gave at least as good as they got during the rest of a refreshingly fluid first quarter in which giant lock Alistair Kellock showed he is more than just a line-out totem. Paterson cut the lead with an 18 th minute penalty, forced after a stunning break down the left by prop Bruce Douglas.
But their chances took a potentially terminal knock not long afterwards. Locks Scott Murray and Ian Gough tangled off the ball and Steve Walsh, not the sort of referee who feels that a good performance is one nobody has noticed, ruled that Murray had retaliated by kicking at Gough's head and sent him off - the first Scot to walk in 135 years of matches against the other five nations. Gough was yellow-carded.
Perhaps understandably Wales had the better of the 10 minutes when both teams were reduced to 14 men, with Gareth Thomas and Lee Byrne - only 30 seconds after arriving as a blood replacement for Hal Luscombe - crossed the Scottish line only for the scores to be ruled out.
But within two minutes of Gough's return, Wales extended their advantage in points as well as personnel. Gareth Thomas chipped across oncoming Scottish defensive line, regathered and charged to the line. Stephen Jones converted, but Paterson was on target with a 37 th minute penalty to cut Wales 's interval lead to 14-6.
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