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Scotland U20 24-32 Wales U20

Scotland closed out their 2021 U20 Six Nations campaign with a narrow 32-24 defeat to Wales this evening, with Sean Lineen’s side entitled to feel hard done by in emerging empty-handed from a pulsating encounter.

In front of a select group of family members at Cardiff Arms Park, it was Scotland who made the brighter start. An energetic run from Alex Clayton and direct carrying from Patrick Harrison and Ollie Leatherbarrow saw Lineen’s men earn an early penalty, which Cameron Scott duly converted to edge his side in front.

Straight from the restart, though, Wales responded. A powerful maul within the Scottish 22 allowed the men in red to set up field position, before going through the phases close to the line. It was eventually Christ Tshiunza who barged his way over for the score, Sam Costelow converting for a 7-3 lead after eight minutes.

A frantic opening 10 minutes was swiftly shifting from end-to-end, with Scotland striking back with a well-worked score. Leatherbarrow’s line break and offload saw Ollie Melville’s progress halted by a high tackle, from which Scotland kicked to the corner. The resulting lineout and maul allowed Patrick Harrison to barrel over the whitewash, Scott adding the extras from a tricky angle to restore the Scottish lead.

The lead was short-lived, however. Once more Wales made their visits to Scottish territory count, as Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins’ direct line saw him crash through the defensive line for his side’s second try of the evening. Costelow converted, giving Wales a four-point lead with quarter of an hour played.

Yet Wales’ advantage was similarly brief. Solid set-piece work from the Scottish pack and strong work with ball in hand from Ben Muncaster and Leatherbarrow set up the platform, before Scott’s inside ball saw Michael Gray muscle his way over under all sorts of Welsh pressure. The conversion from Scott was on target, and Scotland led once more.

In-keeping with the standards of the first-half, a Welsh response was soon forthcoming. Another spell of repeated phase play in the Scotland 22 saw Tshiunza held up inches from the line, only for loose-head Cameron Jones to pick up and dot down. For the first time in the match Costelow was errant from the tee, but the home side had a 19-17 lead.

Remarkably, that would remain the score for the remainder of the opening period, though not for want of trying on the part of both sides. Thunderous tackles from Harri Morris and Alex Samuel set the tone for Scotland in defence, whilst Wales full-back Morgan Richards came the closest to adding to the scoreboard.

A lengthy stoppage following a serious-looking injury to Wales winger Carrick McDonough right at the start of the second stanza saw both sides understandably require some time to re-establish their patterns, with some of the pace taken out of proceedings. Clayton was continuing to look lively from full-back, though, whilst Morris was making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown.

Then game the match’s major talking point; attempting to win the ball at the breakdown, Wales flanker Harri Deaves made contact with the eye area of Michael Jones, with the officials deeming the offence worthy of a red card and reducing the home side to 14 men.

Straight away, Scotland made their advantage count. An excellent rolling maul took Jamie Drummond to within five metres, before Leatherbarrow’s burst made it a matter of inches. It was left to Muncaster to apply the close-range finish, Scott converting for a 24-19 lead with 50 minutes played.

Yet once more, momentum shifted sides almost straight away. Whilst Morgan Richards was unable to ground the ball, the intervention of Ollie Melville was deemed to have been illegal upon review by the TMO. A penalty try was duly awarded to Wales, with the Scotland winger sent for 10 minutes in the sin-bin to boot.

Costelow extended Wales’ advantage to 29-24 with a penalty from 40 metres on 56 minutes, but Scotland were standing up to be counted with and without the ball. A line break from Muncaster saw Scotland burst into the Wales 22, with only top-class scramble defence from Efan Daniel able to prevent Euan Ferrie from grounding the ball for the try.

Instead, the final word would be a Welsh one, as Costelow’s second penalty of the half eventually settled the verdict in the home side’s favour. A harsh end to the match for Lineen’s side, and indeed to the 2021 championship, yet the majority of this squad will return hungrier than ever for the 2022 edition.

live commentary 8:00 PM Tuesday 13 Jul 2021

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