photo by Ian Lovell
In front of the biggest Brewery Field crowd of 2006, Wales slumped to a 21-14 defeat at home to Scotland after conceding three second-half tries without reply.
Wales were hoping for their biggest attendance since 2002, and while the crowd didn’t quite beat the 3,112 who watched Wales take on Australia at the same ground in 2003, the figure of 2,378 was a vast improvement on the last two years, especially considering that an estimated 25,000 were just down the road at the Millennium Stadium watching a rugby union European Cup match at the same time.
It was a disappointing day for the Dragons who were expected to field Iestyn Harris for the first time in six years. But just before the game the Welsh Rugby League announced that Iestyn Harris had failed a fitness test and wouldn’t be playing. Harris had undergone keyhole surgery on his knee before going on holiday two weeks ago and, with the rest he was getting, had expected all to be well for the game. However, the injury flared up while on holiday and was declared unfit to play.
Wales Rugby League Executive Chairman Mark Rowley said: “Everyone at Wales Rugby League wishes him all the best for the future. We’d loved to have seen him play today but unfortunately it hasn’t happened. We hope to see him fit again for the 2007 Super League season and hope that he be able to play for us in the second leg in Glasgow next year.”
Welsh coach Martin Hall said that the loss of Harris made no difference to the result.
“It was disappointing not to have Iestyn but it didn’t have any bearing on the game. If we don’t take opportunities, no matter what level but especially at international, and you don’t score the points, it’ll come back and bite you. Fair play to Scotland, all the opportunities they had, they scored and we did convert our pressure into points.
“But it’s only half-time. We’ve got the second leg – another 80 minutes to come and it’s all to play for.”
Scotland stamped their dominance on the game from the beginning. They had an early chance when Mike Nanyn laid off to Jamie Benn who dived for the line but was brilliantly tackled into touch by Bryn Powell.
But they deservedly took the lead on eight minutes with a fine move in front of the sticks. Ian Henderson laid off to Gareth Morton who weaved through the backline, handed off to Wade Liddell who grounded. Morton converted.
Mark Lennon tried to get through the Scottish defence on the fifth tackle but was stopped metres from the line.
But Wales pulled a try back on 16 minutes. From Lee Briers grubber, Richard Johnson, playing his first game in over three months after recovering from a broken arm, pounced to ground in the corner. Briers missed the difficult conversion attempt.
Johnson looked to have had a second on 23 minutes but Damien Gibson’s pass to him out on the wing was adjudged to have been forward.
Danny Brough was sinbinned for dissent on 26 minutes and Wales duly took advantage by scoring two tries in the ten minute spell.
Lennon desperately tried to get on the scoresheet as he attempted another run through but was brilliantly tackled by David McConnell causing him to lose the ball.
But Wales took the lead in the 32nd minute when Adam Hughes scored in the corner following fine work from Briers and Robert Roberts. Briers did well to successfully convert from the touchline.
It was 14-6 straight from kick-off. Johnson created the chance and Briers brilliantly dodged through to score, but missed a far easier chance to extend Wales’ lead as he failed to add the extras.
Scotland came out firing on all cylinders after the interval and scored two quick tries.
The first was an excellent individual effort from Brough that came after just 70 seconds, while Jamie Benn, the match-winner for Featherstone Rovers against Celtic Crusaders earlier this season, added another four minutes later as he pounced on a Henderson grubber. Mick Nanyn missed both conversions so the scores were level at 14-14.
Both teams fought hard to take the lead. Anthony Blackwood sprinted 30 metres to tackle Jon Steel in his own area, and from the set on the restart, Liddell made try-saving tackle on Phil Joseph following an excellent run from Halifax’s latest acquisition.
Scotland were so close to scoring on regaining the ball. Brough, playing an excellent game, despite the sinbinning, laid off to Spencer Miller who was tackled by Lennon as he was centimetres from the line. Miller swung his body over to ground but referee Steve Ganson declared it a double movement and gave Wales the penalty.
Scotland regained their lead on 67 minutes. Brough created the try, laying the ball off to Lowe who in turn passed to Nanyn who ran it though and converted it himself.
Man of the match Danny Brough kicked a fieldgoal with three minutes to go to seal Scotland’s win.
Scotland coach Steve McCormack was understandably delighted at the win commenting: “We addressed a few discipline issues at half-time and came out well. It was a fantastic second-half performance and being away in Wales against a team Wales have got, it was an excellent performance from everyone concerned.”
Article by Ian Golden
29 October 2006