It was a tough encounter, that’s for sure – and I’m not just referring to making it on board a packed train into Cardiff on Saturday. A pulsating start gave way to a nervous hour in which Scotland battled into a deserved lead at the Principality Stadium.
Tries from Jamie Roberts and George North in the final quarter were (just about) enough to see Wales home and dry, although Scotland scored a try of their own as the clock turned red, meaning Wales’ victory was a more slender one than perhaps they hoped.
Jamie Roberts had another colossal game in national colours, this time picking up the man of the match award that many Welsh pundits believed he had deserved in Dublin also. There’s no doubting he’s hit some real form recently, his powerful running and bravery in defence complemented by a try in Saturday’s game. I believe the breakthrough moment though was North’s return to scoring ways. His dazzling run past a handful of Scottish defenders provided the game with a decisive moment of magic. Going into this game, I sensed Scotland were really up for their Cardiff showdown. They perhaps rolled over too easily against England, and were out for blood. Scotland have finished in the bottom half of this competition for far too long – we need all the home nations teams, all the Six Nations teams in fact, to be strong, if European rugby wishes to reduce the chasm between itself and its sothern-hemisphere counterpart.
I felt George North really provided the difference for Wales on Saturday. Scotland sadly lack a player like North in their ranks at present: while they are undoubtedly laying some solid foundations, and have a great captain in Greig Laidlaw, it seems to me they currently have no-one who is capable of providing a moment of true individual brilliance in order to sneak the win they so desperately need. Wales, I would argue, are currently blessed with a number of players who, on their day, fall into this bracket – Liam Williams, Justin Tipuric and indeed North to name a few. These are the game changers, the match winners. I hope there is more to come from the likes of these players in the coming weeks, as Wales look to reinvent themselves, and throw off the shakles against France, England and Italy in search of the Championship title.