Wales 21-10 Scotland

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Wales kicked off the Autumn Internationals with a win for the first time since 2002 as Warren Gatland’s men lifted the Doddie Weir Cup with yet another win over Scotland in Cardiff.

It means Scotland have one just once in 15 years at the Principality Stadium, as the search for consistency in performance goes on for Gregor Townsend’s players, some of whom seemed to struggle at the international level.

With the game taking place outside the official international window, both coaches were restricted to selecting players based in their own countries. This meant the likes of Liam Williams and Dan Biggar missed out for Wales, while Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell were unavailable for Scotland.

Gatland was able to call on a number of British and Irish Lions rested or injured for the summer tour of the Americas though, as Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones, Jon Davies and Leigh Halfpenny were selected, while the likes of Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis and the uncapped Luke Morgan were given a chance to show what they can do on the international stage.

Dillon Lewis Wales
Dillon Lewis started at tighthead

A tentative start to the game from the visitors saw them dominate possession, but Pro14 breakout star Adam Hastings missed touch from a penalty, before Scarlets captain Ken Owens won a turnover on the Scottish 10 metre line and team-mate Leigh Halfpenny happily opened the scoring.

Scotland did create a dangerous attacking opportunity early on, as Alex Dunbar broke the tackle of opposite number Hadleigh Parkes, but Hastings’ kick in behind was swept up comfortably by Halfpenny.

After that it was the ill-discipline of the home side that put them on the back foot in the first half. Firstly a Dan Lydiate jackal secured Wales field position and then an offside infringement gave Gareth Anscombe the chance to kick pass for George North but the winger was just in touch as he touched down. Advantage was still being played though and Halfpenny made it 6-0.

Anscombe continued to try and break the deadlock, with his trademark flat passes almost releasing first Ross Moriarty and then Justin Tipuric, but the attack threw up just another penalty as Jonny Gray was penalised on the floor and Halfpenny extended the lead again.

From the restart Scotland had a second chance to attack as Nicky Smith knocked on, but Wales were penalised at the scrum and Hastings put the visitors on the board after 25 minutes of play.

Leigh Halfpenny Scotland
Leigh Halfpenny’s boot scored Wales’ early points

However, Wales were still the dominant side and on the half hour mark the try deadlock was broken.

A strong scrum gave us front foot ball in the Scottish half, and after some effective carrying from the forwards Gareth Anscombe fixed Huw Jones by going to the line and whipped the ball back for George North to power through the gap left and drive over the try line.

Halfpenny missed the conversion but the try seemed to spark Scotland into life as Huw Jones made some metres down the left wing before Cory Hill was penalised for using his hands in the ruck.

The ball went into the corner and the new Scottish forwards coach, a certain Danny Wilson, will have been very happy to see a trademark driving maul push towards the line with Stuart McInally the beneficiary at the back. Hastings converted and all of a sudden the scoreline was a much closer 14-10 at half-time.

A cagey start to the second half left the game in the balance, however nearly 10 minutes into the second half a brilliant first phase attack from Wales boosted the gap between the two sides.

Hadleigh Parkes took the ball at first receiver before pulling a pass back for Gareth Anscombe on the screen line. He straightened his angle and put Jon Davies through a gap on his shoulder with the outside centre crossing for a first Wales try since February 2017.

From this point on Scotland were battling hard to get back into the game, dominating possession and territory but struggling to find a way through the Shaun Edwards organised defensive wall put up in red.

Gareth Anscombe Scotland
Gareth Anscombe sent Jon Davies over the try line

One eight phase attack on our own try line was seen off, but a penalty advantage saw the visitors go for the corner. The initial maul drive was stopped, but Jonny Gray peeled off the back and thought he had driven over only for the touch judge to rightly rule he had performed a double movement in the act of scoring.

Wales were struggling to manage the game, with the ideas there for the execution too often wayward. The issue was not helped by some clearly tiring legs being left on the field as Gatland seemed reticent to use a young bench.

Scotland came back again as Tommy Seymour broke on the right wing, with the visitors this time going 14 phases in the red zone without try line success. However, another Welsh infringement in our own half saw referee Monsieur Raynal lose patience and Elliott Dee was sent to the sin bin.

With the extra man and attacking position the Scots had a try in their sights, and it looked like they had it when George Horne chipped over the top for his brother Peter, both on the field off the replacements bench, but in the act of grounding it the centre had spilled possession forward every so slightly.

Alun Wyn Jones Scotland
Alun Wyn Jones tries to drag Wales forward

After around 15 minutes of defending Wales finally managed to clear our lines after a scrum penalty was won close to our own try line, and from there the home side managed to see out the game as the second half finished quite slowly.

Not a classic test match all-in-all, but a confidence boosting win for Wales who will certainly be pleased with the defensive aspect of their game as a whole, while a number of players put their hands up individually.

A step up in performance level will be required if Warren Gatland’s men are to break the duck against Australia next weekend, but that should come naturally with the increase in stature of opponent and players from England coming into training.

The main takeaway from Saturday though was what an impressive man Doddie Weir is. Facing such an awful disease as Motor Neurone Disease in the manner that he is and raising a huge amount of awareness and money through his foundation. Inspirational.

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