Wales beat Scotland to keep Six Nations title hopes alive

Richard Hibbard scored his first Test try as defending Six Nations champions Wales maintained their title bid with a 28-18 victory over Scotland at a cold, blustery and wet Murrayfield on Saturday.

Richie Gray of Scotland (2nd L) competes with Richard Hibbard (2nd R) of Wales during their Six Nations international rugby union match at Murrayfield, in Edinburgh on March 9, 2013. Hibbard scored his first Test try as defending Six Nations champions Wales maintained their title bid with a 28-18 victory over Scotland.

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked the remainder of Wales's points, landing eight out of 11 goal-kicks.

Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw kicked all of Scotland's points, as he did in the hosts' preceding 12-8 win over Ireland, with six penalties.

The match was dominated by the whistle of South African referee Craig Joubert and featured a Test world record 18 penalty attempts at goal.

This win meant Wales had won five successive away Championship matches for the first time in their history and was their sixth in a row in the tournament over Scotland.

It also set up a title showdown with England, who continue their Grand Slam quest against Italy at Twickenham on Sunday, in Cardiff next week.

"Absolutely brilliant. We are on a decent streak now. We knew it would be tough at Murrayfield and we are delighted we got the win today," said Welsh flanker Sam Warburton.

"We have a fantastic squad and are very competitive. We have 24 hours to relax and we can start thinking about England on Monday."

Scotland found themselves on the wrong end of several of Joubert's decisions at the scrum and breakdown but interim head coach Scott Johnson refused to criticise the referee.

"I am frustrated but I have said in the dressing room we have to acknowledge our ills," said Johnson, briefly in charge of Wales in 2006.

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

Scotland made two changes to the side that, despite conceding more than 70 percent territory and possession, beat Ireland.

Fly-half Duncan Weir was given a first Test start in place of Ruaridh Jackson, while prop Euan Murray, who missed the Ireland game because he won't play on Sundays because of his religious beliefs, came in for Geoff Cross.

Wales made several changes to the team that beat Italy 26-9.

Paul James took over from injured prop Gethin Jenkins while Warburton, Wales's Grand Slam-winning captain last season, replaced flanker Justin Tipuric, with experienced lock forward Alun-Wyn Jones coming in for Andrew Coombs.

Despite Warburton's return, Ryan Jones retained the captaincy.

Wales had the early edge in the scrum and, after the Scots stood up at the set-piece, Halfpenny kicked a simple penalty.

But back-row Jones then infringed at a ruck and Laidlaw landed a 40 metre penalty before a far simpler effort put Scotland 6-3 up.

Halfpenny had three chances to equalise but the normally reliable goal-kicker was off target with every one, including a 35 metre effort that struck the right post.

But Wales made amends by scoring the only try of the match when a 40 metre break by powerful wing George North, stepping inside Scotland lock Richie Gray, set up a couple of close range rucks before hooker Hibbard plunged over for his first Test try in the 22nd minute.

Halfpenny, forgetting his previous errors, made no mistake with a tricky conversion only for Laidlaw to bring Scotland back to within a point.

Scotland then saw giant second row Gray taken off after he injured a hamstring tackling Hibbard.

Opportunist play by Weir, fly-hacking down field and following up to tackle Wales stand-off Dan Biggar, gave Scotland a five-metre scrum.

But Joubert ruled against the hosts and the try chance disappeared.

However, when James infringed at another scrum soon afterwards, Laidlaw duly punished Wales.

But on the stroke of half-time, Scotland lock Jim Hamilton strayed offside at a ruck to give away a needless penalty. Halfpenny made no mistake and Wales went in 13-12 up.

Early in the second half, Laidlaw missed for the first time after a 40 metre effort fell just short.

Then a Scotland infringement in front of their own posts allowed Halfpenny to kick Wales into a four-point lead.

But back came Scotland, a forward drive leading Wales to collapse a maul, and Laidlaw brought them to within a point at 15-16.

Joubert then angered most of the capacity crowd by ruling against Scotland twice in quick succession, Halfpenny landing both penalties to put Wales a converted try in front.

Laidlaw's sixth successful penalty gave Scotland hope before Halfpenny landed two more of his own.

Scotland laid siege to Wales's line in the closing stages before Warburton forced a turnover to make the match safe for the visitors.

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Writer: AFP
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