Battling Wales raise the roof with spectacular comeback

Wales 31 Scotland 24: Seventeen points in the final five minutes seals unlikely win
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is difficult to know whether Wales will take solace from their extraordinary comeback to win this match after trailing by 10 points with five minutes remaining, or dwell on the deficiencies which got them into that mess in the first place. For any neutral watcher it will linger as one of the great turnarounds in Test rugby, and Wales's defence coach, Shaun Edwards, dipped into the lexicon of Max Boyce to sum it up: "It was one of those games when you say, 'I was there.'"

The hundreds of supporters who were streaming through the exits with Wales 24-14 down would have been kicking themselves whenever it was they discovered that, with tries by the wings Leigh Halfpenny and Shane Williams and two conversions and a penalty from Stephen Jones, their team had snatched a stunning victory. Dan Parks, the Scotland fly-half who has signed to play in Cardiff for the Blues next season, had been turning Wales this way and that with his tactical kicking and it was his second dropgoal which established that 10-point cushion. But Scotland – who had won three of their previous 25 away Six Nations matches – imploded.

They had suffered the agonising sight in the first half of the wing Thom Evans being taken off on a stretcher with what team officials described initially as a "serious back injury". Evans sustained an accidental head-on impact in a double tackle, the second part of it as Wales's Lee Byrne ran in to make a challenge. He was accompanied by his parents as he was taken to Cardiff's University Hospital. Evans's brother Max was also playing for Scotland and by in coincidence their second cousin Chris, the BBC radio presenter, was kicking goals for charity on the pitch at half-time.

Where the last knockings of the match began to go wrong for Scotland was with the sending of their replacement hooker, Scott Lawson, to the sin-bin after 73 minutes. The referee, George Clancy, had been lenient at the ruck and that made for an open match, but Lawson's offence was too blatant. It leant crucial impetus to Wales. Having discovered again how weak their tight play is without Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins – the latter came on for a few minutes and went off again after his calf injury flared up – Wales nevertheless drove Scotland back with a series of scrums and penalties. Byrne, who had scored Wales's first try after 55 minutes from a daring run by Shane Williams, did the spadework for Halfpenny near and Stephen Jones converted.

Jamie Roberts, a gargantuan presence throughout, then busted up the middle with 79 minutes gone and Byrne's chip and chase was halted by by a trip from Phil Godman, one of the substitutes on in a visiting back division almost unrecognisable from the one which started. Godman went to the sin-bin and Jones levelled the scores at 24-24 with the penalty. Scotland had 13 men on the field, only four of them backs.

Time had ticked past 80 minutes as they shaped to restart and Andy Robinson, the head coach, said: "We tried to get the message on for us to kick the ball dead but the guys wanted to go for the victory." Robinson also raged that he had seen video replays and Godman was hard done by. Wales disagreed. In any case Mike Blair was left in the unfamiliar role of taking the restart, the ball stayed in play and Wales surged forward. Halfpenny and Byrne veered in from the touchline, the Scots ran out of numbers and Williams, with a heart-stoppingly rash wave when Johnnie Beattie was bearing down on him, flopped over at the posts. Stephen Jones converted to cacophonous acclaim.

It had all looked good for Scotland when John Barclay's early try was converted by Chris Paterson, the full-back's 35th successful kick in a row in the Six Nations. Max Evans went over in the 20th minute, and though Paterson missed the conversion, and went off hurt soon after, Parks kicked two penalties to three by Stephen Jones. But where Wales had been wounded by 17 points during Alun Wyn Jones's sin-bin at Twickenham, so they were to profit by precisely the same amount when the Scots saw yellow here. "You have to feel sorry for the Scots," said Warren Gatland, Wales's head coach.

Wales L Byrne; L Halfpenny, J Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, G Cooper (R Rees, 40); P James (G Jenkins, 48; James, 59), G Williams (H Bennett, 48), A Jones, J Thomas, A-W Jones, A Powell (B Davies, 48), R Jones (capt), M Williams (S Warburton, 67).

Scotland C Paterson (M Evans, 29); T Evans (M Evans, 13-26; M Blair, 35), S Lamont, G Morrison, R Lamont (P Godman, 66); D Parks (A MacDonald, 77), C Cusiter; A Dickinson (A Jacobsen, 56), R Ford (S Lawson, 56), E Murray, J Hamilton (R Gray, 77), A Kellock, K Brown (MacDonald, 49-56), J Beattie, J Barclay.

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).