Shane Williams scored a last-minute try to secure Wales a 31-24 win over Scotland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Scotland, inspired by pivot Dan Parks, were the better team for most parts of the match and deserved their 10-point lead seven minutes from time. However, they reduced to 13 men and Wales score two late converted tries and a penalty to steal victory.
Before the kickoff, there was already a controversial point. Wales head coach Warren Gatland requested the stadium’s roof to be closed, but his Scottish counterpart Andy Robinson refused as he believed it would give the home side an extra advantage.
The decision went Robinson’s way, as the ruling is that both coaches must agree for a closed stadium, but Wales were still the favourites no doubt. With nine British and Irish Lions in their starting line-up, Wales looked the stronger side on paper.
However, on the field it was a different story as Scotland had the upper hand in the early exchanges on a chilly afternoon in Cardiff.
Wales were poor in defence and attack from the outset as they slipped several tackles and poor handling scuffed vital try-scoring opportunities.
This allowed Scotland to steal the early momentum and they took full advantage of Wales defensive flaws as flank John Barclay burst through centre James Hook and scrumhalf Gareth Cooper for the opening score. Fullback Chris Paterson added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Wales dominated the scrums throughout the match as the Scottish front row faltered, and this allowed the home side to score their first points from a resulting penalty moments later. Flyhalf Gareth Jones on target for the hosts.
But the influential Parks then helped Scotland surge into a 12-point lead. First Parks cancelled out Jones’ three-pointer with a drop goal and minutes later, put a clever grubber through Wales’ flat defence for replacement wing Max Evans to touch down in the corner.
Jones and Parks, who took over the kicking duties from Paterson as the injured fullback suffered a premature end to his 100th Test cap, then traded penalties in the last quarter to leave the score 18-9 at the break.
Scotland had the perfect start to the second stanza as they were awarded a penalty from the restart. Parks kicked the three-pointer to extend the visitors’ lead. However, Gatland’s charges came out a more inspired side after half-time.
This saw Wales hit back through a Lee Byrne try. From a set-piece in the midfield, Wales passed the ball wide and the fullback found space in the wings to score in the corner, but Parks put Scotland 10 points ahead with a long range drop goal.
With 10 minutes remaining, Scotland were under pressure to maintain their lead. The situation worsened for the visitors as replacement hooker Scott Lawson was sinned bin in the 74th minute, giving Wales a one-man advantage which sparked their comeback.
First Wales overlapped Scotland’s defence out wide as wing Leigh Halfpenny ran in at the corner. Jones kicked the conversion..
From the restart Wales were on the attack again, this time kicking the ball into space. Scotland were penalised for illegally obstructing the home team’s chase and were reduced to 13 men. Jones then levelled the scores, with one more play remaining.
It seemed that a draw was a satisfying result for the home side as Gatland and co clearly looked relieved in the stands, but that wasn’t the end of the match as Wales did the unthinkable.
From the kickoff, Wales gathered possession. Jones then kicked the ball out wide and Halfpenny secured possession in the Scots’ 22. After three phases, Wales had men extra in attack and wing Williams scored the match-winning try under the posts.
By Gareth Duncan