Six Nations 2015: Warren Gatland relieved at tough Scotland win
Wales head coach pleased to see improvements as his side win 26-23 in Edinburgh to keep their championship alive
Warren Gatland admitted his relief after Wales came through a tough examination to defeat Scotland 26-23 in the RBS 6 Nations.
The Wales head coach saw his side put in a massive defensive shift to keep Scotland at bay for much of the match as they held on for a first victory in this year’s championship.
We were relieved more than anything with the win to get the campaign back on track.
Despite wasting a number of good try-scoring opportunities, Wales scored two tries through Rhys Webb and Jonathan Davies, while goal-kicking hero Leigh Halfpenny landed 16 points.
And there was drama at the end of the game as Scotland finally breached the Welsh defence for a second time through Jon Welsh to reduce the arrears to three points after the conversion, but were denied a chance to secure a draw as New Zealand referee Glen Jackson blew the full-time whistle.
“There’s things to work on there were some improvements from last week,” Gatland said.
“We played more rugby today and put them under some pressure; the possession and territory were pretty favourable.
“The disappointing thing was we had chances to put the game to bed and we allowed them to stay in the game and you’ve got to give Scotland credit for that.
“We’re as much relieved more than anything with the win and to get the campaign back on track.”
Like last week’s match against England, Wales started well but their efforts were for nothing as after 13 phases of patient play winger Alex Cuthbert was isolated, lost the ball and Stuart Hogg was given the chance to escape down the left for the opening try.
Points machine Leigh Halfpenny kept Wales in the game, landing three penalties in the first half while Rhys Webb scored his second try in as many matches when Scotland were down to 14 men with Finn Russell in the sin bin for taking out Dan Biggar in the air.
With the score at 16-10, Wales struggled to repel a strong driving maul that took Scotland up to the Welsh tryline, but somehow the Scottish forwards failed to find a way over the line before referee Glen Jackson called time on the opening 40.
The second half saw both sides have a try chalked off. Liam Williams’ effort after a break off from a maul caused obstruction and Scotland centre Mark Bennett went over, but Jackson had already blown his whistle for a forward pass from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
With the emotion in the changing room beforehand, we knew it meant a lot to the players to get a result.
The only scores in the third quarter saw Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw land two penalties to Halfpenny’s one, before a superb effort from Clermont Auvergne centre Jonathan Davies saw him break through the Scottish defence to score Wales’ second try, converted by Halfpenny for what would be the winning score.
Scotland again lay siege to the Welsh tryline in the closing stages of the half, but chose to keep running the ball rather than taking the points on offer after several Welsh infringements.
Eventually, replacement prop Jon Welsh found his way over and Russell converted with seconds left on the clock, but before the restart could be taken Jackson blew the final whistle, much to the anger of the home support.
“I’m a great believer in giving players the chance,” Gatland added.
“I thought the big thing about today was that we dominated; our kicking and reception stuff was outstanding and we got a lot of rewards from that,” Gatland added.
“And the learning from last week because we got dragged into a game we didn’t want to play last week.
“I thought today was a big improvement with the opportunities we created, a bit more space, moving the ball, so it was a step up from last week.
“We knew how difficult it was going to be to come here and I think the players were on edge.
“The newspapers were saying we were coming up here expecting to win and, in terms of preparations, that did us a lot of good.
“We didn’t expect a walk in the park. With the emotion in the changing room beforehand, we knew it meant a lot to the players to get a result.”
Gatland also conceded that Scotland are now a much tougher opponent under his compatriot Vern Cotter and believes that the championship has an air on unpredictability about it teams able to defeat each other.
“They were tougher,” he said of Scotland’s new era.
“They competed really hard at the breakdown; Vern has brought almost that Kiwi mentality of being a tough team.
“If they are not going to win they are going to be a tough team to beat.
“Sometimes that is a philosophy you go in with early on as a coach. You make yourself tough to beat and then hopefully you are going to get a few results.
“What makes this championship so exciting is the ability for any team to beat each other.
“There’s a little bit of a gap to Italy, but there’s an improvement with Scotland and the other four are all capable of beating each other on their day.”