Rugby

Gregor Townsend feared dramatic Cardiff collapse would cost Scotland victory

Significant injuries to Richie Gray and Luke Crosbie cast a cloud over the visitors’ victory.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was relieved his side held on to claim a first win over Wales in Cardiff for 22 years
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend was relieved his side held on to claim a first win over Wales in Cardiff for 22 years (David Davies/PA)

Gregor Townsend feared another dramatic Cardiff collapse would cost Scotland their first win over Wales at the Principality Stadium for 22 years.

Head coach Townsend was an assistant to Andy Robinson in 2010 when Wales scored 17 points in the final few minutes in Cardiff to incredibly turn a 14-24 deficit in to a 31-24 victory.

But this time Scotland – who were 27-0 ahead a few minutes into the second half – withstood a Welsh onslaught to win 27-26 and get their Guinness Six Nations campaign off to a positive start.

“It was a bit like 2010 and it went into my thoughts as the second half went on,” said Townsend after Scotland had ended a run of 11 straight defeats in Cardiff stretching back to 2002.

“I remember the atmosphere that day when Wales had the momentum behind them and came back on the scoreboard.

“The same happened today, fortunately we stayed ahead and we were able to play well in the final five minutes.

“A lot of effort went into that last five minutes – we should have scored a try and we felt there were a couple of penalties that could have gone our way in the last passage – but it was past 80 minutes and we got the win.”

Wing Duhan Van Der Merwe scored two tries and prop Pierre Schoeman also touched down, while skipper Finn Russell was flawless with the boot in landing 12 points.

After Van Der Merwe sliced through for a stunning second try just after the restart, Scotland were on course to eclipse last year’s record win over Wales.

But that was not to be and Townsend was grateful to see Scotland hang on while cursing significant injuries to forwards Richie Gray and Luke Crosbie.

“Both are in a lot of pain,” Townsend said. “Richie and the medics knew straight away it was a bicep injury. So that doesn’t look good for this Championship.

“Luke was a shoulder injury. It’s a painful one and that might settle.

“Not for next week (against France at Murrayfield), but let’s hope he’s not done any significant damage there. It’s a blow to lose two players from our starting team.”

On the nail-biting victory, Townsend added: “We were accurate and put Wales under pressure in the first half.

Duhan Van Der Merwe, right, celebrates with Finn Russell and Jamie Ritchie after scoring Scotland’s second try in their 27-26 victory over Wales
Wales v Scotland – Guinness Six Nations – Principality Stadium Duhan Van Der Merwe, right, celebrates with Finn Russell and Jamie Ritchie after scoring Scotland’s second try in their 27-26 victory over Wales (Joe Giddens/PA)

“Those two tries were really good reward and to have that cushion should have made it a more comfortable second half.

“The fact that it didn’t is a concern for us, but a lot of that was due to the penalty count (16 to four against Scotland) and the numerical advantage Wales had for 20 minutes.”

Wales made the most of second-half yellow cards for George Turner and Sione Tuipulotu to turn the contest on its head.

James Botham, Rio Dyer, Aaron Wainwright and debutant Alex Mann crossed, with Ioan Lloyd kicking three conversions, as Wales secured two losing bonus points.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland, whose young side head to Twickenham next Saturday to play England, said: Did we give Scotland too much respect in that first half?

“They were fully loaded and we’re a young team. To do what we did, be 27-0 down, other teams might have shown less character and start thinking about next week, even throw in the towel.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland praised his young side’s character for fighting back from 27-0 down to frighten Scotland
Wales v Scotland – Guinness Six Nations – Principality Stadium Wales head coach Warren Gatland praised his young side’s character for fighting back from 27-0 down to frighten Scotland (Joe Giddens/PA)

“We didn’t do that. They kept fighting and put themselves in a position to win. That showed real character and we’ve just got to play like we did in the second half.

“You can’t coach experience. When you’re out there in front of 75,000 people making that much noise and the pace is quicker than club rugby, sometimes that takes time for players to get used to.

“We’ll need a little bit of leeway, but it’s still Test rugby and it’s about winning. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.”