Six Nations 2016: Wales rewarded for Warburton's risk

By Richard WilliamsBBC Wales Sport
Highlights: Wales 27-23 Scotland
Six Nations: Wales v France
Date: Friday, 26 February Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Kick-off: 20:05 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Wales & S4C, commentary on Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

After all the accusations of negative style and safety-first rugby levelled at Warren Gatland's Wales team, it took a high-risk gamble to break the battling Scots in Cardiff.

Trailing 16-13 and with 61 minutes on the clock, captain Sam Warburton spurned a guaranteed three points by opting for a scrum from a penalty in front of the Scottish posts.

Wales had trailed since the 12th minute and had rarely threatened the Scottish line since Gareth Davies' early try, apart from Tom James' thrilling 80-yard dash along the left touchline from a turnover.

George North and Jamie Roberts celebrate against Scotland

The stakes were high, but the gamble paid off when Jamie Roberts clattered through two tackles from short range.

There was nothing subtle about the execution, but the audacity of the call surprised many - including Scotland.

Five minutes later George North delivered the killer blow when he swerved and sidestepped past five flailing defenders from 40 metres in another moment of bravado.

High risk, high reward

Captain Warburton felt the gamble was worthwhile.

Highlights: France 10-9 Ireland

"You just have to have a feel for those things," he said.

"It was a banker three points in front of the posts, or do you go for the scrum?

"It is a little bit risky - if you give away a penalty you don't get anything and I felt we needed a try, I didn't think three points was going to be enough.

"We'd have to go back down there and get another three and at that moment in time you just get a feel for it, I felt it was the right thing to do."

If the right thing is turning a three-point deficit into a decisive 11-point lead, then it is difficult to argue.

Plenty of room for improvement

After struggling with a busy and impressive Scotland, Wales effectively killed the game off in a 10-minute period.

But that purple patch was not leading either Gatland or Warburton into complacency.

Both accepted there is plenty to work on ahead of the match with France, who are unbeaten in two games after their 10-9 win over Ireland in Paris.

Soft moments cost Scots - Laidlaw

The breakdown, in particular, was a cause for concern, and Gatland accepted Wales had to change their defensive patterns to deal with Greig Laidlaw's sniping runs around the fringes of the breakdown and set-pieces.

But the match statistics were some comfort for Wales.

After failing to make a single line-break in the 16-16 draw with Ireland, they managed five against Scotland, who nonetheless edged the possession statistics.

Expecting a tight finale

Warburton expects the French to provide a stern challenge on 26 February, although Wales have won their last four meetings.

"The French have made their best start in a long time and you have to give them a lot of credit for beating Ireland," said Warburton.

"I'm pleased we have two weeks to get ready for it. We've had a pretty good record against them in the past four years, but I think they are going to be a different side.

"There won't be much more than a score between a lot of the sides and it will probably go down to the last weekend."

The final day last season saw Wales, Ireland and England throw caution to the wind in a thrilling climax to a memorable tournament, with Warburton's team finishing third despite a record win in Italy.

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