Wales Take Heart From Epic Comeback Despite Loss To Scotland

 

Overcoming a 27-point deficit is almost an impossible task in Test match rugby, made even harder when the trailing team lacks critical international experience.

The fact Wales managed to front up to that challenge, mount a comeback and edge to within a point of Scotland is a testament to the resolve within their camp.

Few would have predicted such a turnaround when Duhan Van der Merwe’s arching run past Tomos Williams early in the second half put Scotland within touching distance of a first win in Cardiff for 22 years.

As the winger strolled over to score his second try of the match, a hushed silence fell across the Principality Stadium. Most teams would have cowered in the face of such adversity, but this young crop of Welsh talent rose and responded with a four-try haul that was enough to secure two losing bonus points.

And they did so without the leadership of Alun Wyn Jones, the athleticism of Justin Tipuric and game management of Dan Biggar.

Instead, it was Aaron Wainwright who filled the void, carrying hard into contact, making metres with almost every carry. The speed with which Wales were able to recycle possession completely transformed their method of attack.

All of a sudden, the backs were given quick ball which unleashed Rio Dyer out wide, the winger made full use of possession with agile runs into space and an eventual score in the left corner.

Warren Gatland was left frustrated with how the opening 40 played out but was hugely impressed by the character his side showed to get back into the game.

“We’re really disappointed with that first half,” said Gatland.

“Test match rugby is about making sure you get the simple things right and we weren’t doing that.

“The message at half-time was simple: just go out there and play some rugby.

“I said to the players: did we give Scotland too much respect in that first half? But at 27 points down, would other teams have shown that character to come back?”

Gatland is well aware that you cannot coach experience and that it will take time for this new group to turn into a Guinness Men’s Six Nations juggernaut.

For now, Wales are rebuilding around their next generation, led by newly appointed captain Dafydd Jenkins.

The 21-year-old is the second youngest Wales men's captain ever and only had 12 international caps to his name heading into the weekend.

Initially that lack of experience showed right across the squad, as the penalty count against Wales rose exponentially throughout the first half.

However, Jenkins and Gatland managed to reel in the ill-discipline at the break and then it became Scotland’s turn to get on the wrong end of the whistle.

“Obviously it is an extremely disappointing result, but I’m extremely proud of the boys’ performance in that second half,” said Jenkins.

“We could have easily given up, but we stuck in the fight.

“We hadn’t played any rugby due to our penalty count in that first half, but in the second we sped up the ball a bit and it allowed us to play a bit more.

“We're a young team, there is no fear and we will definitely be looking to build on this.”

The mood in the Scotland camp post-match was also rather muted. Despite banishing the demons of yesteryear to win in Cardiff for the first time since 2002, and retain the Doddie Weir Cup, they did concede 26 unanswered points in the second half.

But in the end a win is what matters most. Last season Scotland made history by winning their opening two Six Nations matches for the very first time and they can match that this year by beating France on Saturday.

“We were disappointed with the game being so close at the end and it could have gone either way with the momentum Wales had in that second half,” said head coach Gregor Townsend.

“A lot of our players are disappointed and we are trying to say to them, this is a really important win.

“An important win for the next few weeks of the Championship, but also in terms of not winning here for so long.”