x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Six Nations: Wales keep title hopes alive against Scotland

Leigh Halfpenny is the hero at Murrayfield as Scotland come up short before Ireland and France draw in Dublin

Wales' George North of Wales battles forward aganist Scotland.
Wales' George North of Wales battles forward aganist Scotland.

Sam Warburton was delighted to make an impact on his return to the starting line-up as Wales kept themselves in the Six Nations title hunt with a 28-18 win over Scotland at Murrayfield.

Wales hooker Richard Hibbard scored the only try of the game, with fullback Leigh Halfpenny adding the conversion and seven penalties.

Scotland’s only points came courtesy of six penalties from scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, in a game dominated by the whistle of referee Craig Joubert.

Flanker Warburton did not start Wales’ wins over France and Italy but his return to the starting XV saw him produce one of his best performances of the season, boosting his British and Irish Lions aspirations.

He told BBC1: “It’s a brilliant win and we are so pleased. We knew it would be tough as it is always tough up here but we are delighted with the win.

“I did not really feel I had a point to prove, I just wanted to get straight back in and make sure we won.

“We are lucky to have a fantastic squad which is very competitive and I am glad to be back in a winning team.

“[Assistant coach] Shaun Edwards has emphasised our defence every week, he is a superb defence coach and he wanted us to stop Scotland, and we are delighted to have gone another game without conceding a try.”

After three straight wins Wales will now face England in a title decider at the Millennium Stadium next Saturday. Warburton said: “We have 24 hours to relax and then we will start looking forward to England on Monday.”

Scotland became increasingly annoyed with Joubert’s interpretations during the course of the second half, particularly at the scrum and breakdown area.

But interim head coach Scott Johnson was not prepared to criticise the South African official.
He said: “I am frustrated but I have said in the dressing room we have to acknowledge our ills.

“It is easy to criticise one man, but we have to look at ourselves and understand what we are doing wrong.

“We showed great heart and great resolve but we have to look at ourselves rather than at anyone else.

“I don’t want to coach a side that apportions blame to someone else, we will go back and have a look and if we have to make changes we will do so, but we will go to Paris next weekend to compete.”

In the later match, deflated Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip was left to rue his side's inability to hold off a France fightback as the sides drew 13-13 in an attritional encounter in Dublin.

Ireland had forged into a 13-3 half-time lead on the back of a powerful forward display, with Heaslip getting their try and fly-half Paddy Jackson adding the conversion and two long-range penalties.

But Les Bleus hit back as Morgan Parra added a penalty to Frederic Michalak's three-pointer, before outstanding No 8 Louis Picamoles barged over and Michalak converted to level the scores.

The result is unlikely to ease the pressure on Ireland coach Declan Kidney.

And Heaslip told BBC1: "It probably wasn't the prettiest game to watch but I think the score reflected the game. There was not much between the teams but they came back strong in the last 20 minutes. It was a very tough game.

"Picamoles took his chance well at the end and did well despite our best efforts and we took our opportunities when they came."

Heaslip also refused to criticise the decision not to award Ireland a potential match-winning penalty late on.

Wing Keith Earls was eased out of his chase for a try in the right-hand corner by France replacement Vincent Debaty.

Referee Steve Walsh referred the decision to the video official, but no penalty was given.

Heaslip said: "From what I saw, Keith got bumped a bit but they went upstairs, the video referee called it as he did and you have to get on with it."