Edinburgh, Scotland (AP) — Scotland convincingly ended a run of nine losses to Wales with a 29-13 win in Six Nations rugby at Murrayfield on Saturday.
After beating Ireland in their opener, the Scots have knocked over another team ranked above them with a show of second-half steel that they haven’t produced until very recently. Down 13-9 at halftime, the Scots scored 20 points and two brilliant backs tries in the second half, and blanked the Welsh.
They also eliminated Wales from title contention. The Scots haven’t been in the chase this late in the championship since 1999 – the last Five Nations – and go with confidence in two weeks to face defending champions England at Twickenham, where they haven’t beaten the English since 1983.
“We believe within the group we can do something,” Scotland stand-in skipper John Barclay said.
“We go to England next game … we genuinely believe we can win games.”
Beat England? “We believe so.”
Scotland’s past and present meant few gave them a chance against a Wales side with 300 more caps, especially after what was thought to be the crippling loss of the injured Greig Laidlaw, their inspirational leader, scrumhalf, and main goalkicker.
But Finn Russell kicked over all seven of his shots at goal, scrumhalf Ali Price in his first test start was well shaded by Wales counterpart Rhys Webb but without costing his side, and Barclay led an immense forwards effort with 10 tackles, 11 carries and four lineout catches.
Without Laidlaw bothering him, Webb was almost running the match.
His quick tap set up Wales’ overlap try for Liam Williams in the first half, and two minutes later his break almost put Williams in again, but Webb was penalized for jersey-pulling.
Wales were bullying Scotland in contact in the first half hour, but penalties and errors were stalling both sides.
Just before the break, fullback Leigh Halfpenny missed a penalty and a chance to put Wales up 16-6. Instead, Scotland produced a quick throw-in, and backs Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Huw Jones counterattacked into the Welsh 22, where they earned a penalty and went into the break only four points down.
Scotland began the second half as they finished the first, only this time they executed. Hogg and winger Tim Visser, playing instead of the injured Sean Maitland, used a brilliant dummy run by Jones to give Seymour the room to score out right.
Webb almost dragged Wales back into the match. He couldn’t hold a pop-up pass off the floor from center Jonathan Davies with the tryline close, and he had a try ruled out because Visser tackled him into touch a blink before he touched down.
“We are hugely disappointed. Our second-half performance simply wasn’t good enough,” interim Wales coach Rob Howley said.
“Scotland squeezed us. We lacked quality possession and when we got it, Scotland were hugely effective in the contact area.
“We failed to take a couple of clear-cut chances, and they proved far more clinical near our line, although we conceded soft tries by letting them get outside us.”
Wales missed their chances but not Scotland.
Russell’s flat miss-out pass found Hogg, who laid off to Visser to score on another overlap on the left, and secure victory with 13 minutes left at 26-13.
“We just tidied things up a bit in the second half, tidied the tackle area up, and we’ve got some backs there who can mix it with anyone, and we gave them ball,” Barclay said.
Russell’s fifth penalty made it a 16-point margin, Scotland’s biggest over Wales in 24 years, and prompted the Murrayfield crowd to heartily sing “Flower of Scotland” for the last five minutes.