Scotland Under 20s were without Adam Hastings (who was recalled to start for Bath alongside Niko Matawalu) Jamie Ritchie and Blair Kinghorn (both on Edinburgh duty) and but you wouldn’t have known it from the strong first half performance at Colwyn Bay where both sides were chasing their second win of the U20 Six Nations.
The Welsh were a solid looking bunch but fullback Ruaridh Howarth and hooker Jake Kerr carried well in the opening exchanges. Things sparked into life when Rory Hutchinson set Howarth on a mazy run before a high arcing pass to 13 George Taylor sent him sprinting down the line. Perhaps a little more take and give might have made more of the overlap but the charging Scots forwards kept the pressure on and earned a penalty that was calmly slotted by Hutchinson.
Scott Cummings and his pack looked well drilled by Coach John Dalziell and put in several strong mauling efforts in the first half, including two almost unstoppable tries one for openside Matt Smith and one for loosehead Murray McCallum just before half time.
For the Welsh Dan Jones missed a penalty attempt but in between the Scottish scores there was plenty of breathless end to end rugby and only a superb covering tackle from Smith kept Keelan Giles out in the corner. The hosts had a mauling try of their own from the ensuing lineout to narrow the scoreline but Dalziell would have been pleased how his young men responded to stretch out the lead again with McCallum’s try.
Half-time Wales U20 5-15 Scotland U20
Reuben Morgan-Williams at 9 was a livewire for Wales and his darting runs from the base of the ruck showed what a good attacking scrum-half can do. It got the Welsh moving until captain Tom Phillips battered over from close range. Again though, Jones missed the conversion.
The Welsh were more grimly more determined in a second half that you fancy was more what they had in mind for the way this game should go, with their running lines causing concern for the Scottish defenders and hard tackling forcing too many turnovers.
Some great soft hands from the Welsh backs put winger Giles over in the corner for a textbook try perhaps aided by some muddled defending in the wider channels. All of a sudden it was 15-15 and the clock was running down while Scotland looked barely able to register an impact in the second half.
A great break by the impressive Hutchinson and utility back Ben Robbins took Scotland down into the Welsh 22 for a rare chance in the half but the Welsh scramble defence managed to get it clear, and from an attacking lineout minutes later the pack couldn’t exert the dominance they had in the first half and Wales were off the hook.
Almost inevitably, Wales had a kickable penalty from almost nothing with just moments left to play, and with Jones looking a little uncomfortable from a previous tackle, replacement Billy McBryde (son of Robin) slotted the left-footed kick to snatch back the lead at the worst possible time for Scotland.
The young Scots can be proud of their dominance but a worrying national trait re-emerged when they were so much poorer in the second half.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Rory Hutchinson directed traffic well and the range of kicks in behind from the Scottish backs was better than you normally see from the senior team. However for his try, a try saving tackle and a strong ball carrying performance Matt Smith was the standout.
Scotland U20 Team:
15. Ruairi Howarth
14. Darcy Graham
13. George Taylor
12. Tom Galbraith
11. Robbie Nairn
10. Rory Hutchinson
9. Hugh Fraser
1. Murray McCallum
2. Jack Kerr
3. Callum Sheldon
4. Callum Hunter-Hill
5. Scott Cummings
6. Andrew Davidson
7. Matt Smith
8. Ally Miller
16. Lewis Anderson, 17. Goerge Thornton, 18. Adam Nicol, 19. Stephen Ainslie, 20. Scott Burnside, 21. Charlie Shiel, 22. Chris Lines, 23. Ben Robbins