By Rhys Thomas
February 14 2012
Wales send Andy Robinson's Scotland team home from the Millennium Stadium to think again
Scotland suffered yet another loss at the hands of Wales as Leigh Halfpenny scored two tries in a 22 point haul. This was the result many expected, although it should’ve been more comprehensive.
The first half is not one that will last long in the memory. It was a tight affair, with the teams going in even stevens at half time. Greig Laidlaw missed his first attempt – not a promising start, and you felt that Scotland needed every point that they could get. The first points of the afternoon came quarter of an hour later, when Laidlaw slotted an easy penalty to make it 0-3. Even though Scotland had been defending for most of the game, they had the upper hand on the scoreboard. Alex Cuthbert was making an impression, using his pace and strength to burst through numerous Scottish players. Soon after, Leigh Halfpenny stepped up and kicked a penalty, after Mike Phillips earned his team a penalty by running into an offside Alasdair Strokosch – referee Roman Poite couldn’t fail to notice. The match continued very much like it had before – slowly. As half time approached Scotland had a chance on the Welsh tryline, but after a few phases prop Allan Jacobsen knocked on, bringing to an end the best Scottish attacking opportunity yet. George North left the field due to injury, and James Hook replaced him – a worrying sight for all Welsh fans. The half ended with Phillips putting the ball out behind the dead ball line – surely the second half couldn’t be as dreary as the first?
Thankfully it was not. After a Chris Cusiter mistake from the restart, and from the resulting lineout, Wales got the ball to Cuthbert who ploughed through Laidlaw to score his first International try. Halfpenny converted, and Wales went 10-3 up. Then Scottish centre Nick de Luca received a yellow card for a frankly ludicrous off the ball tackle on Jonathan Davies. Halfpenny nailed the resulting penalty, slipping in the process. Little Leigh later grabbed a try for himself, after a successful lineout and young Cuthbert chalking up an assist. Only a Scotland penalty punctuated that gap. Rory Lamont was the next Scot to give away an amazingly stupid penalty, taking out James Hook from an offside position. They had truly pressed the self-destruct button, and Halfpenny scored from the ensuing scrum, after Toby Faletau and Phillips combined to give the Gorseinon man his second try. That was the ball game, in only the 55th minute. Scotland were unlucky not to get a try back, but Stuart Hogg was adjudged to have knocked the ball on when TV replays said otherwise. They soon scored a try anyway, with Laidlaw burrowing over for a try – Scotland’s first in five games. He converted his own try, and that proved to be the final score of the game, Wales winning 24-13.
So, another win for Wales on the road to greater success. A team which still has injuries triumphed over a Scotland side who look unlikely to win for the foreseeable future. They still lack any attacking vigour, even with Laidlaw at fly-half, who gave the slimmest of boosts to an average Scottish backline, lit up by the presence of Hogg, who is one for the future. The pack performed better, spearheading an attempted comeback in the second half. If Scotland cut out the silly errors, they could actually win some games – but that incompetence is rooted in the team, and stopping the rot is easier said than done. Wales march onto Twickenham, will be confident of securing the Triple Crown, and with some of the injured players coming back, you would be a brave man to bet against Wales securing their first silverware since 2008.