Scotland secure first win in Wales in 2002 with a 14-10 triumph.
After months of intense competition, major upsets, and varied scorelines, the Guinness Six Nations came to a close on Halloween after a seven-month hiatus. It was a famous day for Scotland with their 14-10 victory over Wales at Parc Y Scarlets, securing their first win in Wales since 2002. For Scotland, it was a tournament full of historic headlines: a first Six Nations win away from home against any opposition other than Italy in 10 years, and the first time since 1996 that they’ve won three straight Championship games. Now, with the Six Nations over and the clock ticking down to the Autumn Nations Cup, how will Scotland assess their recent efforts?
The final weekend in the Six Nations tournament, often dubbed “Super Saturday”, showcased three huge games, however, the first match can be unquestionably viewed as forgettable. Scotland travelled to Wales with a brand new team captained by Stuart Hogg; fresh from securing the European and Premiership double with his club Exeter Chiefs alongside Jonny Gray. Blair Kinghorn had been shifted to the wing from full-back and replaced Edinburgh teammate Duhan van de Merwe, who was named among the replacements. This game was an opportunity for the Scots to end this extended championship on a positive note, no matter the cost.
And yet, that game might have cost Scotland greatly with both fly-halves, Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, limping off the pitch and forcing Hogg to move from full-back to number 10. It was a strange and scrappy game to watch, with Scotland back to making some frustrating lineout calls and simple errors during the first half. This was caused by the treacherous weather conditions which contributed to both teams struggling to hold onto the ball. These struggles were encapsulated by Wales’ try as an overthrow by Scotland hooker Fraser Brown presented Wales with an opportunity five metres out. This chance was taken by Welsh prop Rhys Carre and he went over for Wales’ only try of the game. Scotland were dominant in many aspects of the game but struggled to put points on the scoresheet; two penalties, from Finn Russell and Adam Hastings respectively, were all Scotland had to show for their efforts as they trailed 7-6 at half-time.
Wales, however, put in a disappointing performance, which allowed Scotland to shine in the second half. It was to be a monumental occasion for the defending Champions, as Alun Wyn Jones, the captain, was to be the most-capped player in international history. However, the home team lacked any resilience or discipline. This was summed up at the breakdown where they were regularly punished in the second-half, something that Gatland would not have allowed in his day. Scotland took advantage of this and got their reward with a line-out drive, which resulted in Stuart McInally powering over the line with 15 minutes to go to give Scotland an 11-7 lead.
Thereafter the match just seemed to drift away from Wales, despite Leigh Halfpenny’s penalty briefly reducing their deficit to one point. Scotland continued to press, but with not much luck against Wales’ suffocating defence. With both fly-halves suddenly off the pitch due to injuries, captain Stuart Hogg was forced to move to 10 with Kinghorn dropping to full-back and Scott Steele coming on for his first cap as winger. With the clock ticking, Scotland had to keep their composure in Wales’ half. There was an opportunity for Wales to strike back, but they fumbled the ball which put the final nail in the coffin. Hogg delivered the final kick of the game, which secured a historic victory for the boys in blue – albeit a scrappy one.
It was a good win in the end. Not pretty, but a great defensive shift from the Scots and they played far smarter rugby than Wales. The defending Champions finished fifth in the Six Nations table, their worst finish since 2007, whilst it is also the first time Wales have lost five consecutive Tests since 2016. Alun Wyn Jones was asked in interviews afterwards to reflect on his incredible achievement of 149 caps despite the loss. He refused to acknowledge it. However, it was to be Scotland’s day, and Gregor Townsend’s side should be thoroughly pleased to pick up their first win in Wales after an 18-year wait.