World Cup Here We Come!

By Gavin Wilacy - November 4 2007
World Cup Here We Come!
Try: Jamie Benn Scotland are going to the World Cup in Australia next year after an amazing afternoon at Old Anniesland. A 16-18 defeat by Wales was not enough to deny Scotland a place in the finals as they won Euro A Pool Two by five points difference.
SCOTLAND 16 WALES 18

World Cup Euro A Pool 2

4 November 2007

By Gavin Willacy at Old Anniesland

Scotland hung on to clinch their place in the Rugby League World Cup despite a desperately tight defeat to Wales, winning Euro A Pool 2 thanks to a 37-32 aggregate scoreline.

With the floodlights on for a 2pm kick off under leaden skies on a typical Glaswegian November afternoon and the Sky cameras and big screen here for the first time, the stand was full: big time rugby league had come to little Old Anniesland. There was controversy before the game as Welsh officials complained about Scotland narrowing the pitch by 10 feet, forcing the home groundsman to return the sidelines to their original width.

Steve McCormack made five changes to the side thrashed in France last weekend, new skipper Danny Brough replacing young scrum-half Richie Hawkyard, forwards Paul Jackson, Oliver Wilkes and Neil Lowe came in for Alex Szostak, Jack Howieson and Mark Slatter, with Andrew Henderson replacing Dave McConnell as the second hooker. Veteran Mike Wainwright failed to recover from an Achilles injury to play. Wales were without full-back Mark Lennon but paired Iestyn Harris with Lee Briers in the halves.

Wales had the upperhand in the opening stages and took the lead through Luke Dyer on eight minutes, completing a simple overlap on the right. Harris kicked the goal to reduce the aggregate deficit to a point.

Danny Brough got Scotland on the board on 18 minutes with a penalty against Damien Gibson for obstruction. With talisman Brough showing off his full box of tricks and Briers struggling with injury, Scotland could have sensed a change of tide. But with Richard Fletcher stretchered off with a rib injury, it was Wales who went closest to scoring next with Anthony Blackwood unable to touch down Briers’ clever kick.

With 15 minutes to go, Dave Halley blew a try when he broke clear but passed forward to the supporting Blackwood in the clear. Scotland closed the gap when Brough belted over a penalty from fully 40 metres but five minutes before the break, Adam Hughes hesitated before driving towards the line. The video referee gave the try as he managed to touch down on the line. Harris gave Wales a three point lead on aggregate.

After 12 scrappy, mistake-ridden minutes of the second half, Scotland were back in front overall. They gradually built pressure, won a penalty and Ben Fisher darted over from close range, the momentum taking him onto the line under the posts. Brough made it 10-14, 31-28 in total.

Both sides threw unnecessary passes as the pressure grew. Mick Nanyn made a crucial tackle on Harris and at the other end Jamie Benn was denied a try by the video referee for obstruction by Nanyn. It was exhausting, draining stuff – and that was just for the fans! The players were desperately seeking more energy in the closing minutes.

Todd made a try-saving tackle on Hughes and Brough’s thunderous challenge on Jordan James had the home crowd bellowing with delight as Scotland were forced to dig deeper and deeper.

With seven minutes left, a bit of magic from Nanyn – flinging an inside pass as he was heading into touch – saw Lowe poke the ball forward and Benn pounce on the loose ball to score and level the scores. Brough’s goal put Scotland in the driving seat at last.

But Wales hit back, Briers’ suspiciously forward-looking hand off to Gibson going unpunished as the Halifax centre went over on the left. Harris missed the kick, leaving Wales needing another converted try but they ran out of time. It will be Scotland lining up against France in Canberra Stadium on 26 October 2008. Wales will now play Lebanon in the play-offs on Friday at Widnes.


SCOTLAND:
1 Wade Liddell – Easts Tigers
2 Jamie Benn – Featherstone Rovers
3 Kevin Henderson – Wakefield Trinity
4 Mick Nanyn – Oldham
5 Andy Todd - Edinburgh Eagles
6 Lee Paterson - Carpentras
7 Danny Brough © – Wakefield Trinity
8 Paul Jackson – Huddersfield Giants
9 Ben Fisher – Hull KR
10 Oliver Wilkes – Wakefield Trinity
11 Iain Morrison – Hull KR
12 Duncan MacGillivray – Wakefield Trinity
13 Richard Fletcher – Whitehaven
Subs:
14 David Lynn - Edinburgh Eagles (not used)
15 Iain Marsh – Rochdale Hornets
16 Neil Lowe – Keighley Cougars
17 Andrew Henderson – Castleford Tigers

Tries: Fisher (52), Benn (73)
Goals: Brough 4

WALES
1 Dave Halley – Bradford Bulls
2 Anthony Blackwood – Celtic Crusaders
3 Luke Dyer - Celtic Crusaders
4 Adam Hughes – Oldham
5 Damien Gibson – Halifax
6 Iestyn Harris – Bradford Bulls
7 Lee Briers – Warrington Wolves
15 Jordan James - Celtic Crusaders
9 Ian Webster - Celtic Crusaders
10 Gareth Dean - Celtic Crusaders
11 Matt James – Bradford Bulls
12 Rob Roberts – Oldham
13 Phil Joseph – Halifax
Subs:
8 Phil Cushion - Celtic Crusaders
14 Sean Penkywicz – Halifax
16 Andy Bracek – Warrington Wolves
17 Craig Kopczak – Bradford Bulls

Tries: Dyer (8), Hughes (35), Gibson (77)
Goals: Harris 3

Referee: Phil Bentham (England)

Att: 911.