13 - 26
(Half Time 3 - 16)
Sun 8th Feb 09, 15:00
Referee: Alain Rolland
Alun Wyn Jones
8 February 2009, 5:09 pm
Wales make winning start
Grand Slam champions Wales made a flying start to their RBS 6 Nations title defence with a 26-13 victory over Scotland.
Wales brushed aside the loss of injured Lions Gavin Henson and Ryan Jones - skipper Jones failed a fitness test just hours before kick-off - to send Scotland packing.
First-half tries by centre Tom Shanklin and lock Alun-Wyn Jones left the Scots reeling, before wing Leigh Halfpenny’s touchdown just 48 seconds into the second period finished them off.
Wing Shane Williams’ 45th Test try merely underlined Welsh supremacy, with the 4-1 try count saying everything about Wales’ dominance.
Wales, seeking back-to-back Grand Slams last achieved 100 years ago, remain unbeaten in the RBS 6 Nations since March 2007, but suffered a late injury scare when Williams went off and immediately had his left ankle ice-packed.
Scarlets flanker Dafydd Jones made his first 6 Nations start since 2005, while Shanklin replaced Henson, forging an all-Cardiff Blues midfield partnership alongside Jamie Roberts, and flanker Martyn Williams took over leadership duties.
Scotland handed Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross his international debut instead of the injured Euan Murray, with Jason White covering Nathan Hines’ absence by moving from back-row to lock.
The opening 10 minutes proved a sparring match as both sides probed for an opening, yet Wales soon made attacking inroads.
Shanklin twice ran aggreesively into the heart of Scottish territory, and Shane Williams came off his wing, hungry for work.
Wales were keen to put width on the ball, and Scotland wing Simon Webster required treatment after throwing himself at Williams in a successful attempt to quell a vibrant Welsh attack.
Jones booted Wales into a 12th-minute lead, but Scotland responded by establishing their most threatening territorial position of the game, aided by strong running from flanker Ally Hogg.
But a lengthy delay followed when Cross took out Wales full-back Lee Byrne in mid-air.
Byrne got up immediately, but Cross appeared to take the Wales player’s knee flush in the face and he was stretchered off.
Scotland could not replace him immediately though, as referee Alain Rolland yellow-carded Cross for the challenge, and there was further disruption for Scotland when a groggy Webster departed to be replaced by Paterson.
But as the Scots regrouped, Wales capitalised, launching another flowing back move that saw Williams and Byrne link menacingly before Shanklin powered over.
And matters soon deteriorated further for Scotland, as Wales cashed in on disrupting their scrum, launching a Stephen Jones raid before scrum-half Mike Phillips delivered the scoring pass to lock Jones.
Paterson opened Scotland’s account with a penalty nine minutes before the break, but Wales were in no mood to concede further points.
A Welsh defence that conceded just two tries during last season’s entire RBS 6 Nations tournament thwarted Scottish adventure, highlighted through a stunning try-saving tackle by number eight Andy Powell on Paterson.
Powell counter-attacked from the ensuing scrum, Wales charged upfield, and Jones struck his second penalty with the half’s final kick, securing a 16-3 interval advantage.
Wales were keen to close the game out, but they couldn’t have expected to seal the deal just 48 seconds after the restart.
Stephen Jones’ strong midfield run scattered the Scottish defence, allowing Wales time and space for Shane Williams to free Halfpenny for a try on his RBS 6 Nations debut.
Shane Williams then scored following sustained pressure, and with the job done, Wales boss Warren Gatland made five substitutions en bloc, before captain Williams was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Scotland searched for a consolation try, and it duly arrived 11 minutes from time courtesy of Max Evans, which Paterson converted following his two earlier penalties.
The Scots enjoyed their best spell of the game late on, and Paterson almost scored, but he couldn’t ground the ball ahead of a scrambling Byrne.
Wales though, had comfortably done enough, winning a Test match they never remotely looked like losing.