Wales set up tilt for Triple Crown

Wales 30 Scotland 15

Wales 30 Scotland 15

Dazzling winger Shane Williams conjured up a moment of magic 10 minutes from time to seal a second consecutive RBS 6 Nations victory for Wales.

Twenty years ago, Ieuan Evans lit up Cardiff with an extraordinary solo try against Scotland, prompting legendary commentator Bill McLaren to declare: “Not even Merlin the Magician could have done any better.”

But with Wales struggling to shake off a dogged Scotland side, Williams produced his own rabbit from the hat, beating four defenders before touching down acrobatically in the corner.

Williams’ toe appeared to be in touch, but the try was given by television official Carlo Damasco and the controversial decision finally ended Scottish hopes of victory.

The visitors, beaten by France at home last week, had remained on Wales’ coattails thanks to the dead-eye boot of Chris Paterson, who landed five penalties to overtake Gavin Hastings as the leading Scottish points scorer in Five/Six Nations history.

But it was not enough to overhaul a Wales side who should have hammered home their advantage in the first half, but who ultimately had too much creativity.

Williams scored a try in each half and fly-half James Hook added a third in a personal haul of 15 points.

Wales came into the game on the back of their first win at Twickenham in 20 years and are a different animal when their confidence is flowing.

Ryan Jones pounced on a poor first lineout from the Scots, man of the match Martyn Williams toed it forward and within a minute Wales were pounding away at the Scotland try-line.

Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne were both repelled well by Scotland’s physical forwards but Wales kept the pressure on when Jones charged down an attempted clearance from Dan Parks.

Tom Shanklin brought the invention and pace to the Welsh midfield that was so lacking for the first hour last week and he repeatedly broke the Scottish line.

Scotland’s best attack of the first half came via an Andrew Henderson interception and a grubber kick from Paterson which Shanklin did well to recover.

But Wales failed to clear their lines properly and conceded a penalty, which Paterson converted to put Scotland ahead.

The lead did not last long. Wales were playing on the front foot, where their back division can be so lethal.

Phillips claimed Hugo Southwell’s wayward chip and broke through Paterson’s attempted tackle and, after the ball was swept wide right, brilliantly quick hands from Gavin Henson and James Hook found Lee Byrne on the burst.

Byrne then slipped the pass to Shane Williams on his outside and the diminutive winger danced inside past Mike Blair to score the opening try, which Hook converted.

Wales were creating huge pressure at the breakdown and when Nathan Hines flailed out in frustration, his swinging arm connected with Byrne and the lock was sent to the sin-bin.

Scotland managed to keep Wales scoreless for the next 10 minutes – but their tactics bordered on the suicidal as they tried to pick and go just yards from their own tryline instead of clearing downfield.

Wales forced a knock-on but lost control of the ball at the base of their scrum and Scotland were let off the hook, with Blair taking matters into his own hands to clear.

Hook and Henson combined again to send Roberts on another powerful run which was halted five yards short of the line and, as the ball was spread wide, Wales blew a golden chance to take control of the game.

Shanklin’s pass dropped short of Shane Williams, who was on the overlap down the left wing.

Just as he reached out to grab the loose ball, it spat up off the turf and ricocheted forward.

Hook did extend the lead immediately after Hines returned but Wales conceded a soft penalty shortly before the interval which Paterson converted to keep Scotland well in touch at 10-6.

Any concerns that Wales’ creative dominance was not reflected on the scoreboard would have been enhanced by an electric start to the second period.

Scotland lost Jason White just before half-time but his replacement Allister Hogg charged onto a pass from Nick de Luca and after Wales infringed again, Paterson slotted his third penalty.

Wales responded emphatically, with Roberts launching his giant frame into two powerful runs deep in Scotland territory.

Wales pitched camp under the Scottish posts and although Phillips’ pass was loose, Duncan Jones cleaned up and fed Hook who dashed between Ross Ford and Euan Murray to score.

Wales, though, could not defend their advantage and Paterson slotted two more penalties – the second given against Ian Gough for a shoulder-charge – to pass Hastings’ record and bring Scotland back to within two points.

With 20 minutes remaining, the Wales coaching team made a bold call, replacing Phillips and Hook with Dwayne Peel and Stephen Jones.

Shanklin again punched a hole in the Scottish defence, Shane Williams made a half-break and Stephen Jones slotted over the resultant penalty.

Williams had been in electric form all afternoon and Wales’ most incisive attacking force then sealed the victory with a moment of real magic and an extraordinary finish.

Williams collected the ball 30 metres out, scorched past four Scottish defenders and then – airborne after being tackled by Nikki Walker – managed to avoid the corner flag and ground the ball one-handed.

It appeared Williams brushed the touchline as he was tackled but the try was given and Jones wrapped up the win with the conversion and a second penalty.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox