SCOTLAND came tantalisingly close to achieving a win over last year’s bronze medallists, Wales, in yesterday’s second-round match of the Junior World Championship at the Stade Pascal Laporte in Nantes but in defeat the young Scots have the consolation of securing their first championship point after finishing within five points of their opponents.
That bonus point could be important in determining which group Scotland find themselves in for the final two rounds of the championship, in turn a vital factor in retaining membership of the 12 strong countries that make up the top tier of the tournament. What was important yesterday for the Scots was being able to bounce back after a heavy defeat by Argentina in the opening round and that was amply demonstrated when the Scots at one stage had a three points lead over Wales.
The Scotland performance yesterday also wiped out the memory of the 44-17 defeat by Wales in Inverness three months ago.
“After the Argentina game we knew what all the boys were looking for was a reaction and I think the boys really stepped up today but we are disappointed with that loss,” said Scotland captain Jonny Gray.
“We can look back and we can be proud of the spirit we showed but all that matters is we didn’t get the win. We will learn a lot from this. It was a fantastic occasion but unfortunately we didn’t get the win but credit to Wales in the victory.”
Scotland showed strong character in recovering from a difficult start to the match that allowed Wales to establish a 13-0 lead from a penalty and drop goal by the Ospreys stand-off Sam Davies and his conversion of a try by Scarlets wing Aaron Warren.
But in a dominant middle period of the match Scotland fought back magnificently with three penalties by stand-off Tommy Allan and then a try by the Stirling number 8 Adam Ashe, converted by Allan, which gave the Scots a 16-13 lead.
Two penalties by Davies and then a try by Scarlets centre Steffan Hughes, converted by Davies gave Wales a 26-16 advantage, but a late surge by Scotland resulted in their Leinster replacement Eogan Masterson crossing for an unconverted try to earn the Scots a deserved bonus point.
Wales captain Ellis Jenkins praised Scotland afterwards. He said: “This was very tough, Scotland dug in right to the end and we had to have a couple of really defensive sets to keep holding on to the game. Credit to Scotland, they were a very strong team and a win is win. Two from two – we couldn’t ask for much more but we have a lot of things to work on. First half, we forced too many offloads, 50/50 offloads – maybe we should have held on to the ball – but overall we are pleased with the win.”