EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP – SCOTLAND 12 WALES 50 - Report
An astonishing 50-point turnaround ensured that European Champions Wales remain on course to defend their trophy and qualify for the 2021 World Cup.
Trailing 12-0 after only eight minutes - the Bravehearts getting off to a near faultless start - John Kear’s men clawed their way back into the contest by the break, behind by only four points, and totally dominated the second half, running in seven unanswered tries including a hat trick to winger Rhys Williams who extended his record as the nations’ leading try poacher.
“I’m delighted, in all honesty we got what we deserved,” said Kear, whose side wiped out the deficit of defeat in France the week before.
“They’ve applied themselves on the training field, we wanted that quality in the performance and we got it – I’m really pleased for the players.”
Kear added: “It’s a good feeling and now we can take this into the Ireland match which looks like it could be a vital qualifying game, but we’ll enjoy this first.”
Superbly led by prop Dan Fleming, who played the full 80 minutes, skipper Elliot Kear was the catalyst for the Welsh revival in concert with club mate Williams; Josh Ralph exerting a greater influence as the match went on, the Dragons overcoming indiscipline in the opening 40 which saw them 6-1 behind on the penalty count.
The Bravehearts, with Edinburgh Eagle Criag Robertson on debut and Oliver Wilkes playing his 499th career game after a five year absence from the Scottish squad, delighted the passionate Gala crowd in the opening exchanges.
Recalled James Bell, who was a handful throughout, made space for Murray Mitchell and he sent Davey Dixon over for a debut try; Ryan Brierley landing an excellent touch line conversion.
Soon after, Bell crashed over from a delightful no-look pass by Kane Bentley, Brierley with the extras but few at Netherdale would have imagined that would be the end of the home scoring.
Wales debutant Mike Butt forced Robertson into touch and Kear led the comeback, Williams with a 50 metre counter-attack and Ben Morris with a superb flick pass to put the winger over.
James Olds missed the kick but back-to-back goal line drop outs gave the visitors excellent field position and from Ralph’s high kick, Kear’s challenge forced David Scott into an error, debutant Elliott Jenkins on hand to gather and cross.
The second half was one-way traffic, with Olds becoming increasingly more influential and Curtis Davies a livewire out of dummy half.
Six minutes onto the second period, another fine pass by Morris sent Williams in, Olds perfect with the boot after the break to give his side the lead for the first time, Ben Evans denied a score as he lost the ball on a charge to the line.
Ralph used Fleming as a foil, breaking through to send Chester Butler strolling over and, on the next set, Olds beat Robinson to a high kick, palming the ball back for Jenkins to claim his brace.
Jenkins then turned provider, latching onto Olds’ fine fend and break, the young stand off just getting the ball to half back Ralph on the inside as he began to stumble.
Ralph made it two tries in four minutes after supplying Williams and taking the return ball, and Williams completed his treble soon after, latching on to an astute midfield kick from Kear and breaking the remnants of the cover.
In the final minute, Evans bustled his way over, Olds bringing up the half century with his seventh goal.
Scotland now fall into the final European qualifying tournament next year if they are to make the 2021 World Cup.
“The first 15 minutes we defended really well and executed some nice tries,” commented joint Scotland head coach Chris Chester.
“James Bell had a dig and Ben Kavanagh played the full 80 minutes, other than that it was pretty shambolic.
“We certainly weren’t expecting that score line and collectively we weren’t good enough and didn’t do ourselves justice; we looked a little bit like a pub team in the second half.”
David Scott, Craig Robertson, Will Oakes, Murray Mitchell, Davey Dixon, Oscar Thomas, Ryan Brierley, Ben Kavanagh, Kane Bentley, Oliver Wilkes, Nick Glohe, Frankie Mariano, James Bell
Substitues: Billy McConnachie, Sam Luckley, Craig Borthwick, Lewis Clarke
Tries: Dixon (3), Bell (8)
Goals: Brierley 2/2
Elliot Kear, Mike Butt, James Olds, Ben Morris, Rhys Williams, Elliott Jenkins, Josh Ralph, Ben Evans, Steve Parry, Dan Fleming, Rhodri Lloyd, Chester Butler, Connor Davies
Substitute: Dalton Grant, Curtis Davies, Gavin Bennion, Morgan Evans
Tries: Williams (20, 42, 74), Jenkins (33, 60), Butler (57), Ralph (67, 71), Evans (78)
Goals: Olds 7/9
Referee: Ben Casty
Half time: 12-8
Man of the match: Dan Fleming