Biggar steps into the limelight to land late winning drop goal for Wales

For Scotland a stirring victory followed by dispiriting defeat is a pattern all too familiar

Wales 20-17 Scotland

An outhalf is the centre of attention at the best of times, but this match – more than most – was a tale of two 10s. We didn't have to go far before the analyses of the showdown between Dan Biggar and Finn Russell. Sure enough, theirs were the narratives that shaped the match.

In the end the earthier qualities for which Biggar is renowned prevailed over the airy brilliance of Russell. In his 100th Test, Wales’s captain shook off the knee injury that dogged him throughout and stepped into the limelight once more to land a winning drop goal 10 minutes from the end.

Ryan Elias was the official man of the match, but he was only too happy to defer to his captain afterwards.


“He took a knock early doors,” the Wales hooker said. “I thought the way he was rolling around he could be going off. It’s just a testament to the bloke he is and the player he is. He’s so resilient. You’d have to carry him off in a box, I think, before he gets substituted. He had a great game. That aerial pressure, I thought he was class again today.”

The irony is the match's turning point, the moment the fates of Biggar and Russell separated, of Wales and Scotland, was a miss by Biggar. Each fly-half had missed a conversion in the first half from out wide, but they had not missed a penalty between them, both four from four, when Biggar tried his luck from long range.

His attempt hit the crossbar and rebounded back into play. Alex Cuthbert secured it, and in the passage of play that followed Russell knocked the ball on in an attempt to intercept. He was sent to the sin-bin for his pains. Scotland's soul went with him.


With the stage his, Biggar suddenly decided those three points he had tried out for from a suitably dramatic long range were no longer quite so appealing from a much closer position. So he sent the next two penalties to the corner. When the ball came back to him following the second lineout, his instincts for The Moment were triggered. Cardiff had its latest victory against visiting Scots.

For Russell, the sure touch of regular victory remains agonisingly elusive, which means it does too for Scotland. For them to be rated favourites in Cardiff represents significant progress, but if ever they might have fancied their chances this would have been it. Not only are they riding as high in rugby’s estimation as they have this century, Wales are missing more than 600 caps’ worth of experience.

The wise will point to the hyper-competitiveness of this Six Nations, that barely anything separated these two teams in a match that could have swung either way, just as had been the case when Scotland found the wherewithal to prevail over England the weekend before. If teams are to be capable of beating one another, it stands to reason they each must lose.

But in Scotland’s case the laments of the more impetuous are also valid. Stirring victory followed by dispiriting defeat is a pattern all too familiar.

Gregor Townsend would not be drawn on the fateful error of his talisman Russell, a player whose genius echoes that of Townsend himself, even if the two have had their disagreements.

“We are all aware that in any sports team there are going to be performances that aren’t up there with what we aspire to achieve. But in defeat it is important that we all stay together and work out how we can get better for the following game.”

Good news

The good news is that Scotland’s next game is back at Murrayfield; the bad news is that France are coming, the only unbeaten team left after only two rounds. Dare one point out that France have not won a Six Nations match in Edinburgh since 2014? They have not beaten Scotland in the championship at all since 2019.

The loss of Matt Fagerson in the first half will trouble Townsend, all the more so given Jamie Ritchie is already lost to Scotland's back row for the rest of the tournament.

For Wales, though, there are hopes of a return to action for a few of their wounded. Josh Adams and Willis Halaholo will be in contention, and Taulupe Faletau continues his return from injury with Bath. Josh Navidi may also come into the reckoning.

Wales have proved better this century at riding the expectations of the watching world – hence their record as the most successful team of the Six Nations. Which is just as well since their next trip is to Twickenham, the venue they love to storm more than any.

"We still have a chance in this competition depending on results, but you want to be in the fight," said Jonathan Davies, who came on for his 100th cap too. "We go to Twickenham as a group, and we can take some confidence out of today. But we know there's a huge amount of work to do."

They all still have a chance in this competition. The various tales should provide a few more twists yet.

WALES: L. Williams, Cuthbert, Watkin, Tompkins, Rees-Zammit, Biggar, T. Williams, Jones, Elias, Francis, Rowlands, Beard, Basham, Morgan, Moriarty. Replacements: J. Davies for Tompkins (68), Sheedy for Biggar (79), Lake for Jones (65), Thomas for Elias (65), Lewis for Francis (60), S. Davies for Rowlands (76), Wainwright for Moriarty (58). Not Used: G. Davies.

SCOTLAND: Hogg, Graham, Harris, Tuipulotu, Van Der Merwe, Russell, Price, Schoeman, McInally, Nel, Gray, Gilchrist, Skinner, Watson, M. Fagerson. Replacements: Kinghorn for Tuipulotu (71), Redpath for Van Der Merwe (79), White for Price (63), Turner for Schoeman (44), Sutherland for McInally (45), Z. Fagerson for Nel (45), Darge for Gray (63), Bradbury for M. Fagerson (32).

Ref: Nic Berry (ARU).