Out of the three games this weekend, this was the one where neither team had anything to play for, other than pride. That should have meant it was an open game, with both sides really pushing for the win, but this was not the case, particularly in the first half, as the weather affected the performances of both teams.
Scotland were in the hunt for three consecutive wins in the Six Nations, and clearly wanted to get the ball down the line as quick as they could. This meant that the pressure was on Wales to think quicker and anticipate where the ball was going to go, and which Scotland players would receive the ball, and which weren’t.
However, the main issue for Scotland was that they couldn’t break Wales down. Famously, the Welsh defence is really well-drilled, and is one of their strengths, and that requires their opponents to have creativity in their play, particularly in the central areas of the pitch. However, the player Scotland tasked with this, the returning Finn Russell, was a bit quiet in the first half, and the Racing 92 fly-half’s withdrawal from the pitch afterwards was bad news for the away side. Captain Stuart Hogg showed what he can do in attack, and it was likely that he would need to become their main source of creativity in the second half. This is not to say that Scotland didn’t have opportunities, because they did, but they just seemed to be a little slow in getting through. That meant that Wales were able to get back to stop their breakthroughs fairly easily.
There was one thing Scotland didn’t do so well in the first half, which led to the only first half try from Wales prop Rhys Carre, and this was errors at lineouts. The one which led to the try came from Scotland hooker Fraser Brown throwing the ball over the main lines, where it was caught easily by his opposite number Ryan Elias. This led to a series of phases which eventually saw Carre get the ball over the line under the posts.
The second half saw them continue to push against Wales, and they finally got the try they deserved and had been threatening all game when a lineout was won and Scotland pushed forwards in the maul, all piling in, and replacement hooker Stuart McInally was the player in possession when the ball hit the ground. They continued to push hard right up until the final whistle, looking to find another breakthrough if they could. However, they ended up having to take a penalty, rather than a second try, which still ended the game in their favour. They deserve credit for getting the win, as they deserved it, and were the more dominant side in the game.
Wales, meanwhile, had a performance to forget, with their main enemy being the penalties they conceded. It was a very scrappy performance overall from them, and Scotland, whilst not able to break them down, were continually being given the ball very cheaply. You can tell that they are in transition from the Warren Gatland-era to the Wayne Pivac-era, with some things needing improvement in some areas as he begins to implement his own style of play much more.
However, the one area where they are and always have been very strong is in defence, and that was evident in this game as well. As mentioned, Scotland needed to be creative to find gaps, and, apart from a few times that they did get through, Scotland found it tough to break Wales down.
Wales had needed to offer more in all areas, and this is what we hoped would be the case in the second half. However, there wasn’t much action in the second half from either side, with the same stalemate situation in place that we had seen in the first 40 minutes. Wales’ biggest problems were the volume of penalties they conceded. These were for basic things too, like not rolling away quickly enough (although some of these were a little harsh at times), but it meant that Wales couldn’t get any momentum going, which cost them as Scotland began to take more control, especially after they scored their only try of the game.
Given the experience that Wales have in their team, it was a performance that we are not used to seeeing from them. Their forward players in particular didn’t seem to be in form, whilst their backs, particularly the two wingers, Liam Williams and Josh Adams, were very quiet throughout.
The weather did prove to be a major factor in the game, with the wind swirling around Parc y Scarlets and playing havoc with the ball whenever it went into the air, and both sides were struggling to work out where it would come down most of the time. There were also problems when they were kicking to touch, often not finding it, or pushing the kick too far. This is an important point to make with regards to both sides, in a game that will not go down in Six Nations history or live long in the memory too long.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie played really well in this game, with both sides having issues with the conditions and penalties. However, when Scotland lost Finn Russell, they needed someone to step up and take control, Ritchie did just that, helping to keep Wales back and stop[ing them gaining too much ground.