Six Nations Wrap: Scotland ‘disappointed’ despite famous Wales win, England survive Italian scare
Winger Duhan van der Merwe has scored two tries as Scotland claimed a dramatic first win in Cardiff for 22 years after withstanding a remarkable fightback from Wales to seal a 27-26 victory.
Prop Pierre Schoeman also crossed for a try for the visitors who led 27-0 early in the second half on Saturday and looked like racking up a record score against the Welsh.
But yellow cards for hooker George Turner and Australian-born centre Sione Tuipulotu killed their momentum and the hosts scored 26 unanswered points.
Wales, who picked up two bonus points, burst into life to use their numerical advantage to great effect, scoring four tries through flankers James Botham and Alex Mann, winger Rio Dyer and No.8 Aaron Wainwright.
“We are a little bit disappointed. The win is good but that second half is nowhere near where we need to be,” Scotland captain Finn Russell said.
“In the second half our discipline was poor, the two yellow cards let them back into the game.
“When Wales scored that try early in the second half we got a little complacent, we thought the game was done.”
Scotland’s victory was their first in Cardiff since a 27-22 success in 2002, a game in which current coach Gregor Townsend played and Wales captain Dafydd Jenkins was not yet born.
The Scots did win 14-10 in Llanelli in front of empty stands during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“It is an extremely disappointing result, but I am proud of the boys’ performance in the second half. We could easily have given up, but we stuck in the fight,” said Jenkins, Wales’ second-youngest captain.
Wales’ inexperience was illustrated by debutant fullback Cameron Winnett, 21, who was playing just his 16th game of professional rugby.
Schoeman burrowed over for Scotland’s first try and their second came from excellent play by Russell, who orchestrated his side’s attacking tempo with a series of clever passes and kicks, ghosting into a gap before releasing Van der Merwe.
The visitors’ 20-0 lead was their biggest halftime advantage over Wales since 1924 and that was extended when Van der Merwe crossed again.
It was there the game turned, however, as Wales piled on the pressure and forced Scotland to concede 14 penalties in a row.
They drove over from an attacking lineout for Botham’s try and Turner was handed a yellow card for an illegal collapse of the maul.
Wales made their man advantage count when Dyer went over in the corner, before further scores by Wainwright and debutant Mann dragged them within a point with 12 minutes remaining.
In the other game, England recovered from a scruffy start and a 17-8 deficit to beat Italy 27-24 in their opening Six Nations game in Rome, ending a run of four successive opening round defeats in the championship.
Italy led 17-14 at halftime and a late try in Saturday’s match earned them a losing bonus point in their most competitive Six Nations performance against England – the only team they have never beaten in the competition.
England took a long time to find their groove and will be concerned over defensive lapses but coach Steve Borthwick will be pleased with the performances of five debutants, not least man-of-the-match back rower Ethan Roots.
“It is pretty surreal. Words can’t describe it – it is special,” said New Zealand-born Roots.
“Steve just said bring your point of difference and bring that into the team. Of course you will be nervous on your debut, we know the Italians are passionate and they never go away, but luckily we come away with the win.
England’s new-look squad contained only 12 of the 23 who lost the World Cup semi-final to South Africa, and they looked disorganised from the start, particularly defensively.
Italy, with new coach Gonzalo Quesada promising a more pragmatic approach after they had a disastrous World Cup, in contrast were cohesive and sharp from the start.
Tommaso Allan put them ahead with a penalty before Lorenzo Cannone sent Alessandro Garbisi clear for the opening try, albeit via what England felt was a forward pass.
England hit back when Tommy Freeman, showing the barnstorming running that earned him an international recall, broke through and offloaded for Elliot Daly to score.
Italy responded immediately, though, as England’s defence got into a hopeless mix-up to allow Allan all the space he needed to gallop under the posts.
Two George Ford penalties closed the gap to 17-14 at halftime, somewhat flattering for England.
The odds-on favourites finally edged ahead five minutes into the second half when scrumhalf Alex Mitchell showed great determination to squirm through two tackles and touched down.
Another Ford penalty stretched the lead as Italy struggled for any sort of foothold in the face of aggressive England blitz defence.
When they did get a chance to close the gap after an hour, Allan missed his penalty attempt.
England sent on two more debutants in flyhalf Fin Smith and flanker Chandler Cunningham-South and when winger Immanuel Feyi-Waboso made it five, it was the most since Stuart Lancaster’s first game in charge in the opening game of the 2012 Six Nations.
England won an 80th-minute penalty that they could have popped over for a 30-17 win but they opted for a scrum and were penalised – allowing Italy to kick for a lineout and send Australian-born Monty Ioane clear down the wing through a few soft tackles to earn Italy’s losing bonus point.
England host Wales next Saturday and Italy face the daunting prospect of a trip to Dublin to face championship favourites Ireland who beat France 38-17 in Paris on Friday.