Hodge ensures young Welsh pay penalty

Scotland Under-21 15

Wales Under-21 9

Inverleith is famous - or rather infamous - in Welsh rugby as the scene of Wales's heaviest defeat by Scotland, and 71 years on, a more modest piece of history was made there when they lost to Scotland at Under-21 level for the first time, writes Steve Bale from Edinburgh.

At least yesterday's was not a defeat of 1924's calamitous 35-10 proportions but in its lower-profile way it was no less disappointing for Wales, because they secured a sufficient advantage both in winning the ball and dominating territory to have won by as many as the earlier Wales had lost on that long-ago occasion.

This is not to suggest such an eventuality would have been fair, just that it was possible, or rather would have been possible had Wales had more of an idea of how to profit by the copious possession supplied, especially by Steve Ford in the line-out.

The story is familiar: no Welsh tries and only the kicking of one man, in this case Arwel Thomas with two penalties and a drop goal, to get their points across. Thomas is a potential genius of an outside-half - hence Bristol's interest - but in the end he, too, was sucked into Scotland's defensive web, which also ensnared the latest and biggest Quinnell, Craig.

Besides, the Scots did much more than protect their line. They also pinched any amount of ball the Welsh forwards had taken into the tackle, making it a bitterly unpalatable hors d'oeuvre for Wales to today's main course at Murrayfield and alarmingly reflective of current trends back home.

As well as being technically deficient, they constantly fell foul of the referee and it was only natural that Duncan Hodge should give Scotland victory with his five penalties. Hodge's drop-goal beat the Springboks when they played Scotland A last November, yet despite that match-winning evidence he could not make the Under-21 team who lost in France last month and regained his outside-half place on the grounds of physical presence rather than kicking prowess.

He and 13 of yesterday's team-mates are regulars in Scottish First Division rugby, giving a clue to the underlying reason for an otherwise improbable win. However blessed Wales may be with young talent, only five of their Under-21s are first-team regulars at their clubs, added to which they had seven new Under-21 caps compared with Scotland's one.

But there was more to it than street wisdom. The manager of the young Scots, the former national coach Derrick Grant, had invoked the spirit of the senior side in laying their French bogey a fortnight ago and his Under-21s' triumph carried echoes of the inspired effort led by Gavin Hastings in Paris. Praise could scarcely be higher.

Scotland: Penalties Hodge 5. Wales: Penalties A Thomas 2; Drop goal A Thomas.

SCOTLAND UNDER-21: P Flockhart (Stewart's Melville FP); H Gilmour (Heriot's FP), M McGrandles (Stirling County), C Murray (Hawick), C Morley (Bath); D Hodge, J Weston (Watsonians); M McCluskie (Edinburgh Academicals), G Bulloch (West of Scotland), B Stewart (Edinburgh Academicals), I Elliot (Hawick), P Jennings (Boroughmuir), T McVie (Edinburgh Academicals), D Clark (Stewart's Melville), G Dall (Heriot's FP, capt). Replacements: S Grimes (Edinburgh University) for McVie, 39; I Leighton (Melrose) for Murray, 78.

WALES UNDER-21: M Evans (Newport); C Moir (Northampton), R Jones (Neath), G Thomas (Bridgend), O Thomas (Cardiff); A Thomas (Neath), J Hewlett (Cardiff); C Loader (capt), M Thomas (both Swansea), L Manning (Bridgend), S Ford (Aberavon), C Billen (Pontypool), C Quinnell (Llanelli), A Moore (Swansea), P Beard (Cardiff). Replacements: P Horgan (Aberavon) for Hewlett, 46; C Stevens (Maesteg) for Moore, 80.

Referee: A Watson (Ireland).

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