Edinburgh - Wales are still on track for a Six Nations Grand Slam after they beat Scotland 18-11 at Murrayfield on Saturday.
First half tries by wing Josh Adams and centre Jonathan Davies
helped Wales absorb a fierce fightback by an injury-battered Scotland to
set up a potential tournament clincher against reigning champions
Ireland in Cardiff next weekend.
After a week of turmoil in Welsh rugby, with an on-off proposed
merger between the Ospreys and the Scarlets, Warren Gatland’s side
stretched their record winning run to 13 Test matches with a clinical
first half display and a backs to the wall second half defensive effort.
Wales went into the contest without a first half try in this year’s
championship but showed early intent, zipping the ball out wide to
Adams, whose chip up the right wing was covered by Finn Russell.
It was Scotland, prompted by their razor-sharp flyhalf, who
temporarily seized the attacking initiative thereafter and Russell
kicked them into a 10th minute lead.
Not that the home side remained in the ascendancy for long. Running
through the phases, Wales stretched their defence to breaking point
three minutes later, Worcester wing Adams skipping past full back Blair
Kinghorn on the left before touching down behind the posts for his third
try in as many matches.
Gareth Anscombe’s conversion made it 7-3 to the visitors and, though
Russell’s second success at goal fleetingly pegged the deficit, Wales’
New Zealand-born flyhalf nailed his first penalty after 23 minutes to
give his side a 10-6 advantage.
The Scots had been obliged to contend with considerable disruption to
their personnel, flank Jamie Ritchie leaving the field with a head
injury after eight minutes, to be replaced by Hamish Watson, who lasted
just five minutes before departing with a blood injury.
The Scots also lost wing Tommy Seymour to a shoulder injury before Wales struck for a second time after 29 minutes.
This time Gatland’s men patiently cranked through 23 phases before
centre Jonathan Davies cut through the defensive line to score. Anscombe
was off target with the conversion but Wales led 15-6 at the break.
Replacement outside-half Adam Hastings was forced to stand in for the
injured Kinghorn at fullback and made a tackle his father Gavin, a
Scottish legend in the number 15 shirt, would have been proud of to deny
Adams a score.
Wales prop Tomas Francis performed heroics in holding up the ball
beyond the tryline to deny lock Grant Gilchrist but the Scottish
pressure finally told after 57 minutes.
Taking a deft inside pass from Russell, replacement wing Byron
McGuigan cut through the Welsh defence with a diagonal run and Hastings
fed the ball on for Graham to score in the right corner. Russell was of
target with the conversion but Scotland were back in touch at 11-15.
Graham departed with a hand injury soon after, Greig Laidlaw coming
on at scrum half and Ali Price having to shift to the left wing with the
number nine shirt on his back.
Despite all of the changes, Scotland upped the pressure in the final
quarter but without closing the four-point gap. Indeed, in the final
minute, Wales broke out on the counter-attack and Anscombe landed a
penalty to seal the victory and move Gatland's side within one step of
the Grand Slam.