Kicking king Halfpenny gives Wales fighting chance of title

Scotland 18 Wales 28

Kicking king Halfpenny gives Wales fighting chance of title

Halfpenny once again punished Scotland, kicking 23 points that took his tally against them to 55 in just four games. But on a day when Halfpenny and Scottish marksman Greig Laidlaw shared 18 penalty attempts – a world Test record – the Wales full-back ultimately prevailed.

After missing three successive shots at goal, the Cardiff Blues star admitted his Murrayfield experience could easily have been remembered for all the wrong reasons before returning a 72% success-rate through seven penalties and a conversion.

“As a kicker, it was probably my toughest challenge, having missed those three kicks,” he said.

“One or two of them I felt I hit well enough to go over and then all of a sudden the wind caught it. It is a test of character when you miss three like that and I will be honest, I was thinking it could go two ways. It could go really wrong or I could get myself together and go back to basics – and that’s what I did.”

Halfpenny was so determined to redress the balance that he had no intention of handing over the kicking tee.

“I wanted the responsibility and it wasn’t an option to hand (it) over to anyone else,” he added. “It was really tough out there kicking. You would throw a bit of grass up in the air and it would go in a full circle and then land by your feet!”

For a new-look, new-feel Scotland, the result must go down as a backwards step and hooker Ross Ford admitted as much.

The Edinburgh man has played a key part in Scotland bouncing back from last year’s wooden spoon disappointment to register the nation’s first back-to-back wins in the tournament since 2001.

But ambitions of making it three victories in-a-row were dashed by a combination of pedantic refereeing by South African Craig Joubert and the Scots’ own indiscipline.

“It’s never good to lose, but we didn’t give ourselves much of a chance. We allowed Wales to control the game quite well.

“Now we just need to look at the video and work out where we can improve. It’s always the basics that are most important and against the Welsh, it was a lot of basics that let us down.

“We need to keep working hard there and try and rectify that before France next week. But we are very frustrated.

“On reflection, we didn’t control the game well enough. We made it hard for ourselves to get control and momentum. It’s a loss and that’s a step back for the team, given how things have been going.

SCOTLAND: Hogg, Maitland, Lamont, Scott, Visser, Weir, Laidlaw, Grant, Ford, Murray, Gray, Hamilton, Harley, Brown, Beattie.

Replacements: Jackson for Weir (78), Cross for Murray (76), Kellock for Gray (30), Wilson for Beattie (69).

WALES: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts, North, Biggar, Phillips, James, Hibbard, A. Jones, A. Jones, Evans, R. Jones, Warburton, Faletau.

Replacement: S. Williams for Davies (72), L. Williams for Phillips (72), Owens for Hibbard (60), Tipuric for R. Jones (50), Bevington for Faletau (80).

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).

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