50 min: Ashman on in the front row for Scotland, Crosbie off, in the absence of the sin-binned Turner. Wales win a penalty at the scrum. Despite his team leading by 22 points, Gregor Townsend suddenly looks a bit concerned up in his seat.
It’s for collapsing the maul during the try-scoring attack. “You don’t often see a referee give a yellow card when a team have scored, but that was so cynical, you have to deal with it,” says Owens on the BBC.
Really well worked by Wales. Lineout, drive, Scotland have no answer to the power and co-ordination of the move … and get a yellow card for their trouble. Lloyd misses the conversion.
46 min: Wales have got to find something. They kick a penalty for the corner from midfield … then rumble a maul into the Scotland 22. Scotland cough up another penalty, Zander Fagerson for not rolling away. O’Keeffe is good with announcing why he’s given a penalty. Why don’t all referees do that?
Another shocking Welsh kick gives Scotland time and space to run it back. But even than it’s too easy: Russell takes the ball to the line, dummies one defender and feeds Van der Merwe. It’s a fantastic finish from distance from Van der Merwe who runs beyond a despairing dive by Tomos Williams, just on at half time. Russell converts.
Dee and Assiratti are both on for Wales along with Lloyd and Williams. Elias, Brown, Davies and Costelow are all off.
41 min: Costelow failed his HIA, so Lloyd is on permanently at No 10 for Wales.
Here we go. A one-sided thrashing or the mother of all comebacks?
“Can someone tell the BBC to keep Nigel Owens for ALL games!,” emails Dave, of the former referee’s efforts on the mic.
Why not also read Robert Kitson’s report from Rome, following England’s earlier win against an impressive Italy:
Tompkins knocks on with Wales on the attack and that’s half time tea and oranges. That couldn’t have gone much better for Scotland, or indeed much worse for Wales. Perhaps it’s time to revisit Michael Aylwin’s match preview:
“Bookies are cold-hearted, boring stattos. They generally ignore the hysterical whims of the rest of us, which is why they are so rich. So when they overlook a run of defeats stretching back more than 20 years, when they stick their necks out to say a side are likely to win despite all that, we know something must be afoot.”
37 min: Wales win a penalty inside the Scots’ 22 and kick for the corner. A converted try here and it’s game on for the second half. But Wales muck up the attacking lineout yet again! What a shocker. It was Wainwright jumping in the lineout, and a decent throw, but it slipped through his hands. Set-pieces win and lose you games, as Graham Taylor used to say.
36 min: Scotland’s Luke Crosbie is under scrutiny from O’Keeffe and the TMO for a clear-out that resulted in Costelow getting a bang to the head. O’Keeffe says no foul play. Nigel Owens, on the mic for the BBC, says he thinks the decision is “spot on”.
35 min: Wales, unwisely, send the lineout long and it’s overthrown. Scotland mop up the loose ball, but Rowe is soon charged down after Russell finds him out on the left wing. Wales suddenly have ball in hand in the Scots 22, but a knock-on is spotted by O’Keeffe. Now, the TMO is looking for a head contact by a Scotland player on Costelow.
33 min: Scotland are snaffling everything Wales are sending their way in terms of high kicks. However, Wales win a penalty for offside, kick for the corner, and they have an attacking platform late in the first half.
Oh, that’s good from Russell, and a simple finish from Van der Merwe, who is smiling broadly as he trots over under the posts. Costelow is the last man standing in the Wales defensive line, but he’s hopelessly exposed after more strong work down the middle by Tuipulotu. Russell bangs over the conversion and this is looking like a tough, tough day at the office for Gatland and his young captain Jenkins.
29 min: Another phenomenal clearing kick from hand by Russell takes the pressure off Scotland’s defence again, following a cheap turnover from Wales.
28 min: Can Reffell be both a Tiger and a groundhog? Yeah, let’s go with it.
25 min: Wales attack with ball in hand, which feels like a bit of a turn-up for the books. Davies nearly fumbles it, but manages to cling on, but the ball suddenly appears in Scottish hands a second or two later. When Scotland attack – Russell flings a trademark pass off his left hand to Rowe on the right wing – Reffell gets involved and turns the ball over for Wales. Fine work by the Leicester Tigers groundhog.
24 min: Costelow launches a garryowen up high from inside the Wales half. The Scotland full-back Rowe tries to gather it, but knocks on at the second attempt, and Wales will have the put-in at another scrum.
Russell knocks over another straightforward kick, and Wales need to get on the board sharpish.
21 min: I said Wales were looking to run the ball after one early counter, but in fact, they are looking to kick almost everything at the moment. A poor kick from deep, down Russell’s throat, allows the fly-half to find touch with a fine 50:22 – but Wales immediately are penalised for, perhaps, a bit of chat to the referee.
20 min: A quarter of the match gone and Scotland have been dominant. They have another scrum put-in now, but this time it’s just outside their 22. They win a free-kick for an early engagement by Wales.
18 min: Tuipulotu has started this match like a runaway train, and his latest strong carry helps to relieve the pressure on the Scotland defence. He soaks up a couple of tacklers and creates space and time for a clearing kick after Scotland’s scrum put-in.
16 min: A smooth lineout from Wales has multiple runners heading for the Scotland line in the visitors’ 22. But Jenkins, the captain, spills the ball forward in contact and it’s a defensive scrum for Scotland instead of sustained attacking pressure for Wales. It’s reset at the first time of asking.
15 min: Rowe, the Scots full-back, is penalised for a high hit on his opposite number, Winnett. Wales kick for the corner.
12 min: On commentary, Jonathan Davies thinks he’s spotted crossing by Scotland on replay leading up to the try. “He doesn’t take anybody out. You’re clinging to a little bit of hope there, I think,” says Nigel Owens, the former referee.
It’s all Scotland. Their impressive continuity in attack leads to a try for the front-rower under the posts. The TMO checks the grounding – on-field decision is try – and indeed, the score is confirmed. An easy conversion for Russell, whose prompting for the likes of Van der Merwe was key to that score.
9 min: Domachowski of Wales needs treatment after taking a blow to his head in trying to execute a tackle in that latest Scotland attack. He appears to be fine to carry on …
9 min: From the lineout, again it’s Tuipulotu causing massive problems for Wales with a muscular carry up the middle. But Zander Fagerson is driven back in the tackle, then penalised for a double movement with the try-line beckoning.
8 min: Wales concede their third penalty for offside. O’Keeffe, the referee, tells Jenkins the next one will be a yellow card. Russell hammers a fine touch-finder for the corner.
On the board.
5 min: Good from Scotland, who get a lineout right and then rumble a maul up the middle … Tuipulotu then makes a dent with a typically strong carry. Russell tries a reverse cross-kick but it’s overhit. The referee was playing advantage and brings it back for a penalty.
3 min: Scotland get their first chance to attack, but an errant pass ends the move down the right, and Wales immediately look to counter with Josh Adams and then the scrum-half Gareth Davies. It’s an encouraging start from both teams in terms of their willingness to attack with ball in hand.
2 min: Scotland claim the kick-off and eventually box kick to the Wales full-back, Winnett. He immediately looks dangerous trying to run the ball back into traffic in midfield.
OK, OK, Wales actually won the anthems 3-1. The young Wales captain, Jenkins, is pictured in close-up, emotionally belting out the final line.1
“Hi Luke. The bookies know everything, right?” emails Simon McMahon.
“Which makes me
extremely confident about Scotland’s chances absolutely terrified that we will blow it this afternoon.”
The teams are out, and we’re ready for a creditable 1-1 draw in the battle of the national anthems.
George North is kept out by a shoulder injury today, but you should definitely read Donald McRae’s interview with him regardless:
“Take your points,” chips in Martin Johnson on pundit duty. “You can have all the possession and territory, but take your points.” Wise words.
“At international level, you’ve got to concentrate,” says Alun Wyn Jones on the BBC.
The 21-year-old Cameron Winnett of Cardiff debuts at full-back for Wales: for Scotland, there is also a debutant at full-back in the shape of Kyle Rowe of Glasgow Warriors. Sam Costelow makes his Six Nations debut for Wales at No 10.
Wales: Winnett; Dyer, Watkin, Tompkins, Adams; Costelow, G Davies; Domachowski, Elias, Brown, Jenkins (capt), Beard, Botham, Reffell, Wainwright. Replacements: Dee, Mathias, Assiratti, Teddy Williams, Mann, Tomos Williams, Lloyd, Grady.
Scotland: Rowe, Steyn, Jones, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe, Russell, White; Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson, R Gray, Cummings, Crosbie, Ritchie, M Fagerson. Replacements: Ashman, Hepburn, Millar-Mills, Skinner, Dempsey, Horne, Healy, Redpath.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZL)
Warren Gatland has a chat with the BBC: “It’s the greatest tournament in the world. It’s not a game of rugby, it’s an occasion. You get a real buzz from the Six Nations.
“I’m excited. We’ve got a group of youngsters with no fear … we’ve got to think about the Six Nations, but we’ve got to think about the future as well.
“(Captain) Jenkins is tough. He’s a great professional. He gives 100 per cent. Probably if you compare him, he’s a young Alun Wyn Jones … Sam (Warburton) was similar.”
On the BBC, Martin Johnson compares Finn Russell to Austin Healey. As a player, that is.
The bookies make Scotland favourites to beat Wales in Cardiff. And that is saying something, given Scotland have not won there since 2002.
“He won’t change the way he plays,” Gregor Townsend says of his new captain, Finn Russell. They’ve come a long way since that little falling out they had …
Scotland were far from the only team to return from last year’s Rugby World Cup with an overwhelming sense of frustration; and they were undoubtedly unfortunate to find themselves in a pool with South Africa and Ireland.
There can be no complaints about unfavourable draws in the Six Nations, though, so the next several weeks will be another important marker of progress being made under Gregor Townsend – plus a test of the leadership skills of their new captain, the fly-half Finn Russell, who is thoroughly enjoying club rugby at his new home in Bath.
Russell lines up against another new international captain, the 21-year-old Dafydd Jenkins, who today becomes the second-youngest man lead Wales after the great Sir Gareth Edwards. Cameron Winnett makes his debut at full-back for Wales while Warren Gatland, who took his team tantalisingly close to another World Cup semi-final just a few months ago, is overseeing yet another rebuild and getting another crack at Europe’s biggest rugby competition. This could even be fun.
Kick-off: 4.45pm GMT