How Wales beat Scotland as Louis Rees-Zammit leaves everyone open-mouthed

So Wales are two from two and the Triple Crown is on, with England up next!

For the second week in a row, they held on for a win against a team reduced to 14 men, with Scotland prop Zander Fagerson having been sent off for connecting with the head of Wyn Jones at a ruck on 53 minutes.

It was a bonus point 25-24 victory built on some brave defence and the brilliance of two-try Man of the Match Louis Rees-Zammit.

Here’s the tale of the tape from a thrilling encounter at Murrayfield.

Lethal Louis

Wow, the boy is some talent.

Louis Rees-Zammit’s acrobatic finish was one of the highlights of the victory over Ireland last week and he was to prove even more influential in attack versus the Scots, scoring two tries and setting up another.

They were different types of touchdowns from him this time, showing the full range of his attacking armoury.

His first was all about poise and predatory prowess.

When the ball was shipped into midfield from an attacking lineout, Nick Tompkins did really well, drawing two men and managing to get the ball away one-handed to Liam Williams.

Fed by Williams, it was then all about the execution of the finish from Rees-Zammit.

Showing the coolest of heads for a young man just turned 20, he slammed on the anchors causing the covering Darcy Graham to overshoot.

Then he calmly stepped inside Graham to cross and give Wales hope, cutting the half-time deficit to 17-8.

Then, on 51 minutes, the scorer turned provider.

As the ball was moved left from a forward drive, Rees-Zammit came off his wing and hit a great line to take a pass off Callum Sheedy and slice through before again showing his poise, as he drew the last man and floated out a pass to send Liam Williams over, returning the favour.

Then 11 minutes from time came his match-winning second.

With Wales looking to keep the ball in hand and play wide to stretch the 14 men in blue, the Gloucester winger was serviced by the impressive Willis Halaholo.

What followed was a thing of beauty.

Putting on the afterburners and racing away from Duhan van der Merwe, Rees-Zammit then showed his footballing ability, kicking over the head of Stuart Hogg.

It’s a real skill to be able to do that with the right weight and direction when you are running at full pace.

But he caught it just right as he chipped infield and then it was all about those wheels of his, as he scorched the turf to reach the ball ahead of Hogg and Chris Harris and touch down.

It was just an attacking masterclass from the young man.

He also saved a try with a crucial intervention on his own line midway through the second half.

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, he then rounded off his day’s outstanding work with a crucial relieving kick as Wales were clinging on to a one-point lead with three minutes left on the clock.

Striking the ball with the outside of his right boot, he smacked it from just beyond his own 22 and watched on as it bounced into touch deep in the Scottish 22.

Is there nothing the boy can not do?

The match winner for the second week in a row.

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Watkin makes amends

When Owen Watkin fell off a one-on-one tackle on Stuart Hogg to concede a try on 65 minutes it was a tough moment for him.

But the Ospreys centre certainly made amends in the final play of the game.

It looked as though Scotland were going to claim the winning score when Duhan van der Merwe was freed by Finn Russell and burst away down the right three minutes into added time.

But it was Watkin who saved the day, tracking back to pull off a vital tap tackle.

The forced pass from the falling Van der Merwe failed to reach the supporting Hogg and that was that.

A try saving tackle to be talked about for many a year.

It was fitting that Welsh defence should have the final say. Yes, there were lapses, but there was also defiance while under the cosh, particularly during a critical period midway through the second half.

Wayne Pivac’s team put in 186 tackles in all, with back rowers Taulupe Faletau (19) and Justin Tipuric (16) leading the way and try-scorer Wyn Jones making 14 hits, as their rearguard resolve saw them home, with Watkin’s last-gasp tap sealing the deal.

Kicking contrast

There’s a lot of talk about there being too much kicking in the modern game.

Well, there’s kicking and there’s kicking and that was never more evident than in the first half at Murrayfield.

Scotland showed just what an attacking weapon it can be, whereas it was a different story when Wales put boot to ball.

The hosts’ first two tries stemmed from their cute and astute kicking.

For the opener, it was all about two bits of skill.

Conjurer Finn Russell did the initial damage, offloading one-handed out of a double tackle to send Jonny Gray rampaging up field.

Then from a ruck on the Welsh 22, scrum-half Ali Price put in a beautifully judged chip over the top for Darcy Graham, with the winger timing his run perfectly to collect the ball and elude the dive of Leigh Halfpenny.

For Scotland’s second try, it was a pre-planned move off a scrum, with Stuart Hogg kicking deep over the Welsh defence to make the men in red turn, applying the pressure.

It was a tactic that reaped rich reward, with Halfpenny failing to grasp the ball as he slid down on it. It went loose off him and there was Hogg, following up to pick up the pieces and pounce.

Overall, there was just so much variety and invention to Scotland’s kicking game, whether it was chip kicks, cross-kicks, grubbers along the floor or raking touch-finders.

In contrast, it felt like Wales were just hitting and hoping, hoofing the ball down field with no great purpose, often just handing possession away to the Scots.

Dual code great Jonathan Davies summed things up pretty well in his half-time summary on the BBC.

“The difference has been between the Welsh kicking game and the Scottish kicking game,” said Jiffy.

“Every time Scotland have kicked, there’s been a purpose to it, kicking into space, kicking into touch and then kicking to compete for it, whereas Wales have just kicked long for no reason.”

But, to their credit, the visitors turned things round in the second period.

They made changes at half-back early on and kept the ball in hand more, with subs Sheedy and Halaholo linking up nicely in midfield, notably for Williams’ try.

Then it was their turn to show that kicking can indeed be used to excellent attacking effect, courtesy of young Mr Rees-Zammit’s match winner.

Lineout clicks at last

Speaking in the week, the man calling the lineouts for Wales, Adam Beard, suggested part of the issue with that area malfunctioning was a lack of consistency.

He pointed to the fact that so many different players have been involved in the operation this season.

It’s a reasonable contention because there have been four hookers throwing in – Ryan Elias, Sam Parry, Elliot Dee and Ken Owens – plus no fewer than nine targets in Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Will Rowlands, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Beard himself.

There have also been different callers along the way.

But that was going to be less of an excuse this week as the main lineout figures remained in place from the Ireland match, with the addition of Wainwright offering another genuine option in the air.

So how did it go? Was there any improvement on the malaise that has seen 23 lineouts lost on the Welsh throw in the first seven Tests this season?

Well, things didn’t start too promisingly.

In just the second minute, the visitors had a lineout in the opposition half and Owens went to the back, which is the best ball, aiming for Tipuric.

But he overthrew the skyward openside, with the ball following into the hands of the other No 7 on the field, Hamish Watson.

So same old story.

But this time, Wales took it on board, adjusted and sorted.

The solution was to go safe and go to the front and it worked, with a succession of successful throws to Wainwright twice, Alun Wyn, Tipuric and Beard twice in the first half.

As an added bonus, there were two steals, firstly from Tipuric and then Alun Wyn.

So much better and the improvement was rewarded just before the break.

A Beard leap drew a maul penalty and when the ball was kicked into the corner, the Ospreys lock went up again at the front to secure the possession from which Rees-Zammit scored on the opposite side of the pitch.

So credit where it’s due. Much, much better on the lineout front, with just that one early lapse to be followed by 11 straight wins on their own ball, plus the two steals.

Onwards and upwards.


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