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Scotland off to best Six Nations start after record win over Wales

Scotland off to best Six Nations start after record win over Wales

RUGBY: Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie believes his side are capable of beating anyone after blowing away Wales 35-7 at Murrayfield yesterday (Feb 11) to secure their best ever start to a Six Nations.


Sunday 12 February 2023, 09:34AM

Scotland thrashed Wales 35-7 yesterday (Feb 11) to secure their best start to a Six Nations championship. Photo: AFP

Scotland thrashed Wales 35-7 yesterday (Feb 11) to secure their best start to a Six Nations championship. Photo: AFP

Kyle Steyn struck twice, while George Turner, Blair Kinghorn and Matt Fagerson also scored tries in Scotland’s biggest ever win over Wales.

But it was Finn Russell who made the difference as the Racing 92 fly-half provided a hat-trick of assists in the second half and added 10 points with the boot.

A bonus-point victory takes Scotland level with Ireland on 10 points at the top of the table and is the first time they have won their opening two games of the Championship since it was still the Five Nations back in 1996.

“If we play to our best, we can beat any team. We’ve got more in us,” said Ritchie.

“Delighted with the win. It was still not perfect, still a few clunky bits in there, but it is good to be winning with still more to improve on.”

By contrast, Wales have lost their opening two matches of the Six Nations for the first time since 2007, with the return of Warren Gatland unable to turn around their fortunes.

Gatland won all 11 of his meetings with Scotland in his previous stint as Wales boss between 2007 and 2019.

But the New Zealander is quickly learning the scale of his task second time round after a 34-10 humbling on home soil against Ireland last weekend.

“Some of the things that affected us last week: our discipline, giving penalties away, not being accurate, that was the most disappointing factor today,” said Gatland.

“We had six minutes in their 22, and have come away with bugger all, so we need to have a good hard look at ourselves. We need to get better, and probably be a bit tougher on the players.”

Gatland had dropped former captain Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau among five changes from the defeat to Ireland.

That trio account for 342 Wales caps as well 18 appearances for the British and Irish Lions.

Error-strewn Wales

But Gatland’s shake-up did not have the desired effect in another error-strewn performance.

It was a first half of missed opportunity for Wales with multiple try-scoring opportunities botched - none more so than when Rio Dyer fumbled with a walk-in to the line in the final action of the half.

Scotland took advantage to move into a 13-0 lead as after two Russell penalties, Turner barrelled over the line and got the ball down despite Dan Biggar’s best efforts to hold him up.

Turner went from hero to villain in a few minutes as he was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on George North.

Wales quickly made the most of the man advantage as captain Ken Owens forced his way over in the corner.

But it was one-way traffic in the second half as Scotland ran in four unanswered tries.

Duhan van der Merwe was Scotland’s hero with two scintillating tries to win the Calcutta Cup over England at Twickenham last weekend and the Edinburgh winger’s blistering run down the left touchline set up a concerted spell of pressure on the Welsh line early in the second half.

Twice the home side turned down a simple three points to kick to the corner and finally got their reward.

Russell was the architect with a brilliant sleight of hand to feed Steyn to finish in the corner.

The same duo combined for another try moments later after Liam Williams’s yellow card left Wales down a man for 10 minutes.

Russell’s perfectly weighted kick set up Steyn to cross in the corner.

Scotland got the bonus point when Van der Merwe’s pass sent Kinghorn in for the hosts’ fourth try.

Fagerson then rounded off a fine team move and performance two minutes from time to break a 99-year-old record for Scotland’s biggest win in this fixture.

Victory also saw Scotland lift the Doddie Weir Cup.

Tributes were paid to the former Scottish international before kick-off of the first international at Murrayfield since Weir lost his long battle with Motor Neurone Disease in November.

Ireland beat France in classic

Earlier yesterday Ireland took a giant step towards the Six Nations Grand Slam by beating title-holders France 32-19 in a pulsating encounter between the world’s top two sides at Lansdowne Road.

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The Irish secured a winning bonus point with four tries, with Andrew Porter scoring one on his 50th cap, in what was a record 13th successive home Test victory.

France saw their dreams of a successive Grand Slam success dashed while their national record run of 14 consecutive Test victories came to an end.

The win also saw head coach Andy Farrell secure his first win over France since he took over after the 2019 World Cup.

“It was two great teams going at it with the French going for an unbeaten record and us going for the home record,” Farrell told ITV.

“At the end of the day it is a victory in a competition that we want to do well at.”

France skipper Antoine Dupont admitted the team was dejected over the loss.

“For the moment, obviously it’s a lot of disappointment, we can see the result, they have the bonus point, we have no defensive bonus point,” he said.

“We will have to recover and continue this tournament because it is not over. We know that a lot can happen.”

France struck first with Thomas Ramos slotting over a penalty in the fifth minute.

The Irish stormed into the lead with a sublime try when prop Finlay Bealham sold a dummy pass to Conor Murray and fed fullback Hugo Keenan who burst through the French defence to touch down.

Irish skipper Johnny Sexton converted for 7-3 in the 10th minute.

The trusty boot of Ramos reduced the gap on the quarter hour mark, converting a penalty for 7-6.

France then produced a dream try which began inside their own 22 before Anthony Jelonch passed to Damian Penaud who brushed off Murray before running in for his 22nd Test try. Ramos converted for 13-7.

There was an immediate reply from the Irish as they regained possession when Ramos’s clearance kick was deflected.

The ball came out wide to James Lowe, who still had work to do but somehow managed to touch the ball down in the corner with his legs over the touchline but crucially with his feet not on the ground.

Emotional Sexton

Sexton failed to convert, leaving the French 13-12 up.

The momentum of an engrossing game swung back to the Irish after French prop Uini Atonio was sin-binned for a high tackle on Rob Herring.

However, the hosts took advantage immediately with Porter burrowing over. Sexton converted for 19-13.

The French were on the back foot but fortunately for them Ramos was once again on hand to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The fullback converted a long range penalty for 19-16.

The Irish rounded off an incredible first-half with Sexton slotting over a penalty for a 22-16 lead.

Ramos had the first opportunity of the second period but he failed for the first time with the boot, his long range penalty dropping just short.

However, with just over half an hour to go the hosts lost their talisman.

A clearly upset Sexton trudged off, his head in his hands. He had received treatment to his left leg early in the second period.

Ross Byrne assumed the playmaking role and he landed a penalty just prior to the hour mark to extend the lead to 25-16.

Ramos made one last telling contribution before being replaced by dropping a goal to bring the deficit back to six points at 25-19.

However, it was the Irish who turned on the pressure and got deserved reward when man of the match Caelan Doris found Garry Ringrose on the left wing and he fended off French defenders to touch down.

Byrne converted for 32-19 leaving the French a huge task with just six minutes remaining of keeping their hopes of the Grand Slam alive.

It was not to be as one final French attack petered out and Sexton rose from his seat pitchside to celebrate what will be his last Six Nations victory over the French.

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