Wales give high-flying Scots reality check

WALES brought Scotland crashing back down to earth with an emphatic reminder of why they are the defending Six Nations champions and why, despite losing to England last week, they are bent on retaining their title.

Scotland produced one of the championship's great performances last weekend in defeating pre-tournament favourites France with a brand of high-pressure, high-tempo rugby that Wales have made their own in the last 18 months.

Scotland arrived in Cardiff with some people describing them as the "new Wales" as if the old Wales were finished. Mike Ruddock's men proved that is most certainly not the case.

They were helped by the fact Scotland had to play for nearly an hour with 14 men after Scotland lock Scott Murray was sent off for kicking his opposite number Ian Gough in the head.

Wales coach Mike Ruddock was delighted with the way his side recaptured last season's Grand Slam-winning form.

"We went out to try and reproduce the sort of rugby we played against them at Murrayfield last season," said Ruddock.

"The pushover try set the tone for us. We lost our way a little bit with some disciplinary problems and gave away too many penalties but it was a good team performance."

Looking forward to the next match against Ireland he said: "We can still improve but it was important to win before we go to Dublin."

Ruddock felt Wales had established their superiority before the 22nd-minute dismissal of second row Murray, which effectively ended Scotland's hopes.

"It was a bit confusing. I didn't see exactly what happened but discipline is important to both teams," he said.

Wales captain Gareth Thomas refused to criticise Murray over the incident, in which the Scot retaliated after a late tackle by Wales opposite number Ian Gough who was shown a yellow card.

"He's a great professional and a great bloke," said Thomas.

"He apologised to Goughie straight away. It takes a man to apologise after what he did and sometimes people do see red in international rugby.

"It hasn't taken the gloss off it for us but it took a bit of the gloss off their performance.

"When you are left a man short you have to find a little bit more everywhere. People tend to dig a lot deeper and that's what Scotland did."

Coach Ruddock added: "I definitely feel we played up to the mark and did exactly what we said we were going to do which was take the game to Scotland."

WALES: G. Thomas, M. Jones, Luscombe, Watkins, S. Williams, S. Jones, Peel, D. Jones, R. Thomas, A. Jones, Gough, Sidoli, Charvis, M. Williams, Owen.

Replacements: Byrne for Luscombe (30), Robinson for Watkins (75), Phillips for Peel (70), Davies for R. Thomas (77), Jenkins for A. Jones (69), Delve for Charvis (67).

SCOTLAND: Southwell, Paterson, MacDougall, Henderson, Lamont, Parks, Blair, Kerr, Lawson, Douglas, Kellock, Murray, White, Hogg, Taylor.

Replacements: Webster for MacDougall (67), Ford for Lamont (54), Ross for Parks (61), Cusiter for Blair (70), Smith for Kerr (54), Petrie for Kellock (67), MacLeod for Hogg (67).

Ref: S Walsh (New Zealand).

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