A SECOND defeat for Scotland in their second outing at this U18 Six Nations Festival, but unlike the reversal to Italy on Saturday, there was no real sense of frustration here that the final outcome did fully reflect the general tenor of the game. Wales were, quite simply, the better team, and Scotland did well to hang in there to keep he score-line respectable.
Scotland didn’t make life easy for themselves with an error-filled performance at Sixways Stadium in Worcester, but much of that was down to the pressure they were under. Welsh pace and accuracy in both attack and defence was key, as was their unyielding competitiveness at set-piece. Stand-off Ioan Lloyd and open-side flanker Harri Deaves were both outstanding for the victorious team.
“There’s no easy games in this festival, it is very much about challenging the guys at the next level, and I thought there was some tough periods for us out there – some of them we came through very well, and others we made mistakes that allowed Wales to turn pressure back to us,” reflected head coach Ross Miller.
“The Welsh back-line is very good. They attacked with more width than Italy challenged us with, and in Louis Rees-Zammit – who came off the bench for Gloucester at the weekend – they had a reason to distribute wide. They have layers in their attack, which challenged us, but we got on top of that in the second half in terms of not jamming in and getting sold on their short runners as they went out the back.
“A real plus point for me were Josh King, Harri Morris and Ben Muncaster [the Scotland back-row] who I thought were outstanding. They put in a huge amount of effort and really stepped up to the physicality, to give the Welsh back-row a big contest.
“Obviously we are disappointed at not getting the result but ultimately it is about key learnings. Guys like Alex Samuel, who is an Under-17, played very well but went through some challenging periods, especially around line-out when he’s got to hold his nerve with his calls on his own five-metre line, but he will be a better player off the back of this programme.”
Scotland took a third minute lead through a Harry Patterson penalty after Welsh prop Theo Bevacqua was whistled for entering a ruck from the side, and they scored again just before the break when one of the few line-outs which went to plan during this period was driven over the Welsh line and loose-head prop Jamie Drummond emerged clutching the ball. But the half an hour period between those scores was a fairly fraught experience for Miller’s side.
Wales initially failed to capitalise on their dominance, butchering two gilt-edged try-scoring opportunities on the left. The first after a scintillating break from deep by Lloyd split Scotland wide open but Jamie Dobie somehow managed to knock the ball out of Rees-Zammit’s hand as he dived for the corner, and the second after Carwyn Tuipulotu made the initial dent but Dan John fumbled on the line.
But then it clicked for Wales in scintillating style, with Rees-Zammit making some amends for his earlier howler by hitting a great line to go in under the posts after a slick move off the back of a close-range scrum, and the same man doubled his team’s account a few minutes later when he brushed off Matt Currie and Patterson on a 50-yard run to the line.
Scotland rallied but couldn’t turn pressure into points, and, with their set-piece (especially line-out) struggling to provide first phase ball, they soon found themselves pinned back once again inside their own territory. Lloyd went in for his team’s third try of the afternoon when he ghosted through Scotland’s thin blue line with just under half an hour played, and the stand-off then drilled home his third conversion for good measure.
Drummond’s try just before the break provided Scotland with hope and they started the second half brightly. But then the brilliant Deaves capitalised on a loose pass to put Wales back on the front foot, and Lloyd got his second try when he stepped inside opposite number Joseph Strain and darted home from 20-yards.
To Scotland’s credit, they kept battling away, and were aided by a collapse in Welsh discipline which left them a man down for 20 of the 35 minutes in the second half, after replacement hooker Oliver Burrows was sent to the cooler for a ruck offence deep inside his own 22, and then James Fender received the same punishment for pulling his opposite number down at a line-out.
Scotland pushed hard during the final ten minutes, Muncaster was stopped inches short of the line, and then Dobie was held up over the line, before the try that all that effort fully deserved finally arrived, when slick hands off a scrum created space on the left for Patterson to scoot over.
Scotland’s final match of the tournament is on Sunday against an Ireland team who will also be desperate to avoid a campaign whitewash.
Wales: Dan John; Mason Grady, Ioan Evans, Tom Mathews, Louis Rees-Zammit; Ioan Lloyd, Dylan Davies; Theo Bevacqua, Rhodri King, Lewys Jones, Ben Carter, James Fender, Alex Mann, Harri Deaves, Carwyn Tuipulotu. Subs: Oliver Burrows, Sam O Connor, Iestyn Haskins, Rhys Anstey, Harry Breeze, Bradley Roderick, Ethan Lloyd, Ed Dunford, Ethan Fackrell, Morgan Richards.
Scotland: Harry Patterson (Fettes College); Cameron Furley (Saracens Academy/St Albans School), Matt Currie (Merchiston Castle School), Tom Jones (Bristol Bears/SGS Filton), Jordan Craig (Hamilton Bulls); Joseph Strain (Dumfries Saints), Jamie Dobie (Merchiston Castle School); Jamie Drummond (Marr), James Johnstone (Preston Lodge/Preston Lodge High School), Dan Gamble (Merchiston Castle School), Alex Samuel (Madras/St Leonards), Rory Jackson (Kelvinside Academy), Josh King (Queen Victoria School/Stirling County), Harri Morris (George Watson’s College), Ben Muncaster (Rugby School /Leicester Tigers). Subs: Scott Clelland (Ayr), Ben Mace (Stirling County), Cole Lamberton (The Royal High School), Struan Whittaker (Edinburgh Accies), Jamie Campbell (Kelvinside Academy), Cameron Scott (Preston Lodge), Alex Harley (George Watson’s College), Finlay Callaghan (GHK), Gregor Brown (Robert Gordon’s College), Nathan Sweeney (Loretto School), Scott King (Heriot’s).
Referee: Ben Russsell
Wales: Try: Rees-Zammit 2, Lloyd 2; Con: Lloyd 4.
Scotland: Try: Drummond, Patterson; Con: Patterson, Dobie; Pen: Patterson
Scoring sequence (Wales first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 19-3; 21-3; 21-8; 21-10 (h-t) 26-10; 28-10; 28-15; 28-17.
Yellow cards –
Wales: Burrows, Fender