By Owain Jones
In a nutshell
WALES AND Scotland, like two prize fighters slugged out a first-half bereft of quality and punctuated by a constant penalties given by whistle-happy referee Craig Joubert. The only highlight, if you can call it that, was a close-range try from blond battering ram Richard Hibbard on 21 mins, after some fine work down the touchline from George North. The second-half wasn’t much better as Joubert, clocked up a 28 penalties, with a record 18 for the posts (13 successful) to leave both sides struggling for momentum and leaving spectators freezing and frustrated in the stands. That said, Wales will not care a jot, they coped better with the stop-start nature of the game, scrummaged more powerfully and with George North the pick of the runners, asking more offensively of a doughty Scottish defence. Wales deserved the win, which was notable as their sixth consecutive victory over Scotland and a record sixth win on the road.
Difficult to pinpoint in a stop-start game but it was only after 71 minutes that Wales could breathe a little easier after a penalty from the metronomic boot of Leigh Halfpenny. It was the first time in the game that Wales were in the lead by more than a converted score. With the clock ticking down, and despite Scotland finally throwing themselves at the Wales try-line with any fervour, it was a moment where deep down, they will have felt the game was finally beyond them.
Star man Sam Warburton
Under pressure from Justin Tipuric in recent months and dropped for the Italy game, Wales’ ‘squad’ captain, he had it all to prove with two games left of this year’s Six Nations. Warburton rose to the occasion commendably, putting in the full-card for an openside; an explosive peel off the back of a maul, key turnovers and a double-figure tackle count (13). He even took the armband from the unlucky Ryan Jones early in the second-half. It was a captain’s performance and one that will throw him deservedly back into the Lions mix.
There is no doubt that, barring injury, Leigh Halfpenny will be on the plane to Australia. Despite missing an uncharacteristic three penalties in a row, he had the mental fortitude to go on and score 23 points. He was brave in the air, resolute in defence and prolific off the deck.
Alun Wyn Jones
Such was the impact of Andrew Coombs in the opening few games of the Six Nations that Jones’ parachuting back into the starting line-up raised eyebrows in Wales. After 80 minutes, there were few, if any, doubters left. Jones was ferocious hitting rucks, a nuisance at the breakdown and imperious in the lineout. A commanding presence.
Up to the last ten minutes Laidlaw was matching Halfpenny kick for kick. Scotland have missed a trusted goal kicker since Chris Paterson’s retirement, and with Laidlaw passing 150 points for Scotland, they now have one. He also put a decent shift in around the park. Also, an honourable mention for Matt Scott, who kicked intelligently and ran hard.
Big Jim has emerged with genuine credit during this Championship putting in a series of powerful performances, but on the cusp of half-time, a rush of blood to the head saw him hand Wales the advantage as he charged offside into a ruck. It was a costly error.
Roberts has struggled to exert the influence expected of Tes Lions in this year’s Six Nations. Whether it’s the gameplan or old-fashioned luck, more is expected of him and he was anonymous for much of the afternoon. Will be desperate for a big game against England next weekend. Jonathan Davies was also very quiet in the Welsh midfield.
Scotland made 98 tackles, missing nine, a conversion rate of 92 per cent. Wales made 102 tackles, missing only 3. A conversion rate of 97 per cent.
Scotland ran 278 metres with the ball compared to Wales’ 245 metres
The game’s top tackler was Sam Warburton with 13. Other Wales tacklers to make double-figures included Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Jones with 10. Scotland’s top tackler was Rob Harley with 12, Ross Ford made 11.
George North was Wales’ top ball carrier with 52 metres, followed by Dan Biggar with 45 and Alex Cuthbert with 38. Sean Maitland was the game’s top ball carrier with 75 metres run followed by Johnnie Beattie with 57
Scotland – Pens Greig Laidlaw 6
Wales – Tries Hibbard Pens Leigh Halfpenny 7 Cons Halfpenny 1