Scotland survive stunning Welsh fightback

Guinness Six Nations

Wales 26-27 Scotland

Scotland rode out a thrilling second-half comeback to open up their Guinness Six Nations campaign with a first win in Cardiff since 2002.

Head coach Gregor Townsend featured in that game but watched on this time as his Scotland side weathered a tidal wave of pressure to come out 27-26 victors, carried by tries from Pierre Schoeman and double for Duhan van der Merwe.

For much of the first half it looked as though the historic result was a foregone conclusion for the men in blue, as Finn Russell orchestrated the kicking game brilliantly, heaping pressure on the Welsh back three.

And then when Van der Merwe scored his second, minutes into the second period, the 27-point advantage looked too big a mountain for the new-look Welsh outfit to climb.

Warren Gatland made a big statement with his squad selection, and although his side came up just short, the trust placed in a fresh cohort of youngsters with limited test experience almost paid off, Wales coming within a point of a famous comeback win at Principality Stadium.

Pierre Schoeman goes over for the first try of the game.

Both sides leant into their kicking game from the opening phase, but it was Scotland who initially made the most of the aerial battle, pinning Wales deep in their own half. After attempting two cross-field kicks which bore little fruit, Russell slotted the first points of the game, converting a penalty which came from a Welsh infringement at the breakdown.

Momentum stayed with the visitors and they soon extended their lead when Schoeman battled through traffic to score under the posts, with Russell adding the extras.

The genesis of the try was a break from full-back Kyle Rowe, who stormed into space before unloading a wide pass to Kyle Steyn, sending the winger within metres of the Welsh line.

In need of a spark, Wales kept hold of possession and after securing a lineout in the Scotland 22, looked primed to score until newly appointed captain Dafydd Jenkins spilt the ball.

As Wales struggled to convert, Russell took charge of the kicking battle, forcing international debutant Cam Winnett to watch on as the ball sailed out for a 50/22.

Duhan van der Merwe celebrates his second try.

Frustrations then boiled over as Josh Adams threw the ball into the crowd to prevent a quick lineout, giving up a penalty which Russell successfully kicked.

The gap then widened just after the 30-minute mark with a slick attacking move. Sione Tuipulotu tipped the ball to a looping Russell who dummied past one defender, sprinted into the space and offloaded to Van der Merwe, the winger touching down to give Scotland a 20-point lead at the break.

Having waited five games for a score against Wales, Van der Merwe quickly doubled up with a smartly finished second try, minutes into the second half.

After receiving a one-handed offload from Russell, the Scottish winger accelerated around Tomos Williams, arching his way past an outreached hand to cross over in the right corner.

Russell’s conversion edged Scotland closer to the 30-point mark, but Wales remained unfazed and got their reward minutes later when a finely constructed rolling maul thundered towards the line, James Botham dotting down.

Nick Tompkins celebrates as Alex Mann scores to pile pressure on Scotland.

Replacement fly-half Ioan Lloyd failed to convert from the touchline, but a yellow for George Turner, administered for collapsing the maul, gave the hosts a man advantage.

Enlivened by their opening points of the match, the Welsh pack soon sent another rolling maul into the dead ball area but this time were held up.

However, a penalty was called and from the resulting play Rio Dyer was send try-bound with a perfectly placed miss-pass by Williams.

This time Lloyd converted and Wales continued to mount the pressure, gaining another man advantage when Tuipulotu was shown yellow for slowing the ball at the ruck.

The resulting penalty was taken quickly and possession spread to Aaron Wainwright who charged beneath the posts to score and ignite hopes of a comeback.

Scotland captain Finn Russell celebrates with the Doddie Weir Cup at full time.

With just 10 minutes remaining, Wales constructed another rolling maul, deep in the Scottish 22 and once more delivered, Alex Mann peeling off the maul to cross over on his international debut.

Lloyd converted, bringing Wales to within just one point of Scotland, setting up a tense final few minutes which Scotland managed to ride out, having a try disallowed for an ungrounded ball with the clock in the red.

It’s not often that someone on the losing side gets given the player of the match award but that’s exactly what befell Wainwright. From the off, the Welsh No.8 worked tirelessly at the breakdown but really provided some weight in the tackle area, carrying hard throughout.

He got his just reward late in the second half, picking up a try off a quick tap penalty and, despite the result, was fully deserving of the accolade, helping Wales to two bonus points in defeat.

Scotland will look to put their second half collapse behind them next Saturday when they welcome a French team smarting from an opening game defeat to Murrayfield while Wales travel to Twickenham to face England.

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