Wales, so disappointed to leave Dublin with no more than a draw six days earlier, won compensation on their own turf with a two-try burst in five minutes that finally saw off a brave Scotland.
It is now 14 years since Scotland left Cardiff victorious but their inability, now becoming notorious, to score points in the second half returned to haunt them, even though they contributed so much to a game as entertaining as that in Paris, earlier in the afternoon, was not.
For much of the game they seemed to have taken a leaf out of England’s book and smothered Wales’s running game with the quality of their tactical kicking. But boldness was a friend to Wales, who took two highly significant decisions just on the hour: first they removed Justin Tipuric from the fray after an outstanding display from the Ospreys flanker and, at the same time when trailing 16-13, opted for an attacking five-metre scrum rather than take a certain three points from a penalty.
Their scrum had been an uncertain weapon all game and here it was again but they retained the ball and Jamie Roberts scored the try which gave them the lead. When George North broke something of a drought and charged through for another five minutes later, Scotland’s goose was cooked and the confidence Wales will take from this game will serve them well for the remainder of the championship. Their midfield has yet to reclaim its former glory, there was the odd moment of uncertainty from Gareth Davies and Liam Williams, but the overall quality was just what their coaching staff wanted.
In addition they stole three lineouts from Scotland and will surely try to place greater emphasis on that set-piece area, while covering up scrummage deficiencies.
Scotland, though, find the same old story dogging their every footstep. They were not helped by the first-half loss of Stuart Hogg, their best attacker who might have added to his tries had John Barclay, breaking clear in the first half, seen the full-back supporting on his inside.
Both sides were determined to put behind them the travails of the previous weekend and no one benefited more than Tommy Seymour, the Scotland wing who dealt magnificently with every high ball directed at him on the right wing, where he switched at the eleventh hour after Sean Maitland withdrew.
In addition, he scored Scotland’s try, his sixth in seven games, and the only fly in Scotland’s ointment was the departure of Hogg, who hurt his back sliding in for a catch.
But his colleagues remained distinctly uninhibited and deserved their slight half-time advantage, particularly given the home side’s fine start. Wales had led within seven minutes when Dan Biggar lofted a delightful chip from his own ten-metre line, Roberts leaped for the tap-back, and Gareth Davies gathered the loose ball and scurried in for a 45-metre try allowed to stand after a lengthy check for offside by the television official.
Scotland’s riposte was immediate: they went through 21 phases, driving ever nearer the Welsh line until Finn Russell directed a diagonal kick to the corner where Seymour gathered unchallenged. Greig Laidlaw’s touchline conversion drew the visitors level and when Tipuric was penalised in the tackle, he gave them the lead.
Another scrum penalty allowed Biggar to equalise but, on the stroke of half-time, Samson Lee fell the wrong way at the breakdown and Laidlaw nudged Scotland back in front from 35 metres.
There remained little in it for much of the third quarter, with an exchange of penalties keeping Scotland’s noses in front.
When John Hardie broke deep in the Wales 22, it seemed Scotland might achieve a decisive score but the ball broke to Tom James and the wing sprinted 80 metres down the left-hand touchline before Duncan Taylor caught him. James may not have scored but it swung the match. Scotland, pinned near their own line, conceded a five-metre scrum and when they were penalised in the shadow of their posts, Wales opted for an attacking scrum.
They gained their reward. Taulupe Faletau rescued possession from a retreating scrum and Roberts burst over. Then North, standing in midfield behind a scrum, picked a diagonal line off Biggar and carved past a disintegrating Scotland defence for his first try in six games. Biggar converted both, leaving Wales well placed to withstand Scotland’s defiant late try, Taylor stepping and swerving clear.
Wales: Liam Williams (Scarlets); G North (Northampton), J Davies (Clermont), J Roberts (Harlequins), T James (Cardiff Blues; G Anscombe, Cardiff Blues, 66); D Biggar (Ospreys; R Priestland, Bath, 76), G Davies (Scarlets); R Evans (Scarlets; G Jenkins, Cardiff Blues, 48), S Baldwin (Ospreys; K Owens, Scarlets, 48), S Lee (Scarlets; T Francis, Exeter, 68), L Charteris (Racing; B Davies, Wasps, 48), AW Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff, capt), J Tipuric (Ospreys; D Lydiate, Ospreys, 62), T Faletau (Dragons).
Scotland: S Hogg (Glasgow; R Jackson, Wasps, 29); T Seymour (Glasgow), M Bennett (Glasgow), D Taylor (Saracens), S Lamont (Glasgow); F Russell (Glasgow; D Weir, Glasgow, 68), G Laidlaw (Gloucester, capt; S Hidalgo-Clyne, Edinburgh, 78); A Dickinson (Edinburgh; G Reid, Edinburgh, 66), R Ford (Edinburgh; S McInally, Edinburgh, 66), WP Nel (Edinburgh), R Gray (Toulouse), J Gray (Glasgow; T Swinson, Glasgow, 68), J Barclay (Scarlets; B Cowan, London Irish, 66-76), J Hardie (Edinburgh), D Denton (Bath).
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).
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