|Six Nations: Scotland v Wales|
|Scotland (6) 11|
|Try: Graham Pens: Russell (2)|
|Wales (15) 18|
|Tries: Adams, Davies Con: Anscombe Pens: Anscombe (2)|
Wales are now just one game away from the Six Nations title and a Grand Slam after surviving a second-half fright against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies had the Welsh on course for a 13th consecutive win – and coach Warren Gatland’s 11th in 11 attempts against the Scots.
A depleted Scotland were roused after Darcy Graham scored on his first start and threatened to cause an upset.
But Wales held on and will clinch the title by beating Ireland in Cardiff.
It was a third defeat in a row for Gregor Townsend’s side, who travel to Twickenham next weekend searching for a first win in London against England since 1983.
‘Intensity & accuracy enough for Wales’
Wales didn’t need to play cosmic rugby to establish their lead. Intensity and accuracy did the trick just as well against a Scottish team that was passive and error-strewn in the opening half – a side lacking in the fundamentals of aggression and concentration until they eventually found something later on and put the heat on the visitors.
It wasn’t enough to derail Wales, who survived on the back of their defence on an afternoon that brought a valuable win on a highly imperfect day. Not that Welsh fans will care about the quality. The quantity was enough. Four wins from four games. One more and it’s glory.
Scotland led through an early Finn Russell penalty but Wales dominated the rest of the first half. Wales struck their first blow and it was simple, oh so simple. The try-machine that is Adams was put away up his left wing, his finish being made a whole lot easier when Blair Kinghorn bought his shuffle and practically threw himself out of Adams’ way.
Gareth Anscombe put over the conversion and the Grand Slam-seekers were up and running. Even when Russell made it 7-6, the home respite was brief. Anscombe banged over a penalty of his own soon after, a prelude to Wales’ second try.
The try that made it 15-6 was all about Welsh grunt through the phases. Methodical, patient, accurate – Wales just took their time, inched their way forward and waited for their moment, which duly came when Davies saw some space and finished smartly.
Anscombe missed the conversion, but there wasn’t even the slightest suggestion that Scotland were going to make him regret it. The Scots had enough on their plate with their passiveness of their forwards and their startling error count, but then they started losing men through injury. Tommy Seymour exited, then Kinghorn.
‘Scotland fail to execute again’
One more try for Wales and this would probably have been over as a contest; Scotland had Adam Hastings to thank for stopping it when Adams bore down on the Scottish line. They survived, then the strangest thing happened – they stirred.
At the beginning of the second half, a huge surge downfield by Allan Dell seemed to galvanise Scotland. Much of the rest of the Test was played down the Wales end with the Scots hammering on their door and the Welsh refusing, in the most part, to let them in.
Home angst was high. Possession and territory was Scotland’s in abundance but they found it ferociously hard to break Wales down. The visitors’ defence was clinical and cynical. They hung on – and then they cracked. Russell was the architect of the breakthrough, slipping a gorgeous inside pass to Byron McGuigan, who found Hastings running free outside him. Hastings put Graham over in the corner.
A Scottish pulse at last. Townsend emptied his bench and that brought them more momentum. Hamish Watson was thunderous in contact and with ball in hand.
With 13 minutes left, and Wales beginning to look stressed, Watson busted through Ross Moriarty and Alun Wyn Jones and put Scotland on the front foot again. Once more, they couldn’t execute. Wales scrambled like hell, defended with their lives and lifted the siege.
Anscombe made it 18-11 with the last kick, a blow that landed on Scotland’s groin as much as it did on the scoreboard. Another defeat for the Scots – three in a row – but it’s all about Wales now and their pursuit of their Grand Slam.
They were average, but average got the job done. Gatland won his 11th game from 11 attempts against Scotland. On Saturday, in Cardiff, he has a shot at an historic third Grand Slam.
Scotland: 15-Kinghorn; 14-Seymour, 13-Grigg, 12-P Horne, 11-Graham; 10-Russell, 9-Price; 1-Dell, 2-McInally (capt), 3-Nel, 4-Gilchrist, 5-J Gray, 6-Bradbury, 7-Ritchie, 8-Strauss.
Replacements: 16-Brown, 17-Reid, 18-Berghan, 19-Toolis, 20-Watson, 21-Laidlaw, 22-Hastings, 23-McGuigan.
Wales: 15-L Williams; 14-North, 13-J Davies, 12-Parkes, 11-Adams; 10-Anscombe, 9-G Davies; 1-R Evans, 2-Owens, 3-Francis, 4-Beard, 5-AW Jones (c), 6-Navidi, 7-Tipuric, 8-Moriarty.
Replacements: 16- Dee, 17-Smith, 18-Lewis, 19-Ball, 20-Wainwright, 21-A Davies, 22-Biggar, 23-Watkin.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Touch judges: Luke Pearce (England) & Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)