Slam fever hits Wales

Scotland 22 Wales 46

Mike Ruddock’s side produced a mesmerising first-half display to obliterate Scotland at Murrayfield and move within 80 minutes of a first Grand Slam since the halcyon days of 1978.

Any fears that Scotland might cause an upset were dismissed in 40 blistering minutes as the Welsh ran in five tries, cutting the Scottish defence to shreds and taking a firm grip on the RBS Six Nations trophy in the process.

Tries from Ryan Jones, Rhys Williams, Shane Williams, plus two from Kevin Morgan opened Wales a remarkable 38-3 lead by the interval. Murrayfield was stunned.

Rhys Williams added another early in the second half before Scotland staged a comeback that produced tries for Andy Craig, Rory Lamont and Chris Paterson and was valiant but ultimately fruitless. The game had long been up.

Expectation in the Principality will now be at fever pitch ahead of next weekend’s final hurdle - the arrival of Ireland to the Millennium Stadium in a bristling Celtic showdown.

Some will point to how Ireland have not lost in Cardiff for 22 years and at the way Scotland came back at the Welsh yesterday.

But Wales have proved over the last fortnight they can battle back from adversity, as they did with victory over France, and take the game by the scruff of the neck, as they did yesterday.

The 40,000 supporters who invaded Edinburgh will have no time for doom this evening. Their side are busy making history.

Wales coach Mike Ruddock said: “We started the game the way we finished it in Paris.

“We wanted to attack them from the start and we were exhilarating, playing with pace, a great tempo and with continuity between the backs and forwards.

“We didn’t play for the full 80 minutes but when we did play there was a great quality to our play and the players are a credit to our nation.

“They’ve played with confidence, belief and ability; myself and my coaching staff are just there to support them.”

However, Ruddock is well aware the final leg of their Grand Slam bid could prove the most difficult of all, despite Ireland’s defeat to France yesterday.

He said: “France are always a dangerous side and Ireland still have a lot of great players. They still have plenty to play for and might be even more dangerous now.

“They will be after the Triple Crown and we will have an awareness of the dangers they will pose but as ever we will do our homework and look at how we are going to attack them.

“There are a few bumps and bruises in the dressing room and a lot of this week will be spent on the medical and recovery side.

“Rhys Williams is the biggest concern with a calf strain and Mefin (Davies) also has a knock so we’ll assess them in the week.

“We have been planning for this since June with our medical team so we know what we will be doing.”

Scotland coach Matt Williams lamented his side’s defensive showing in the first half, which left them a mountain to climb after the break.

The Australian is again under the microscope after his eighth loss in nine RBS Six Nations games, with just the scrappy win over Italy to show for his efforts.

He said: “The defensive display in the first 40 minutes was unacceptable. The number of missed tackles was the worst missed tackle count we’ve had.

“It’s doubly frustrating because we improved so much in the second half and if we had the same intensity and accuracy in the first half we could have done something.

“We said all week not to kick away ball because they have four guys waiting back there for it, in order to counter.

“The first time we did that they scored a try. It’s an ongoing lesson to all members of the team.

“Having said that, Wales must be given great credit; they are the best team we have played and deserve to be going for the Grand Slam.

“If they play like that next week they will be very difficult to beat.”

Scotland scorers: Tries: Craig, R Lamont, Paterson. Cons: Paterson 2. Pens: Paterson.

SCOTLAND: Paterson, R Lamont, Craig, Southwell, S Lamont, Parks, Cusiter, T Smith, Bulloch, Kerr, Grimes, Murray, Taylor, Petrie, Hogg. Replacements: Henderson for Craig (76), Ross for Parks (41), Blair for Cusiter (44), Douglas for Kerr (41), Hines for Grimes (41).

Wales scorers: Tries: R Jones, R Williams 2, S Williams, Morgan 2. Cons: S Jones 5. Pens: S Jones 2.

WALES: Morgan, R Williams, Shanklin, Henson, S Williams, S Jones, Peel, Jenkins, Davies, A Jones, Cockbain, Sidoli, R Jones, M Williams, Owen.

Replacements: Luscombe for R Williams (68), Sweeney for Henson (76), McBryde for Davies (50), Yapp for A Jones (63), J Thomas for Cockbain (71).

Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).

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