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RugbyU: Wales beat Scotland to keep title hopes alive

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

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.

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 in a match dominated by the whistle of South African referee Craig Joubert.

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 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 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 France 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 from the re-start back-row Ryan Jones infringed at a ruck and Laidlaw landed a 40 metre penalty before a far simpler effort put the hosts 6-3 up.

Halfpenny had three chances to equalise but the normally reliable goal-kicker was off target with every one, the sequence completed when a 35 metre effort came back off 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 injured in 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 then ruled against Scotland and the try chance disappeared.

However, when James infringed at another scrum soon afterwards, Laidlaw made it four penalties from four with a long range effort.

But on the stroke of half-time, Scotland lock Jim Hamilton strayed yards offside at a ruck to give away a needless penalty.

Halfpenny made no mistake and Wales were 13-12 up at the break.

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

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, on target again, brought them to within a point at 15-16 behind.

Joubert then angered the bulk of a capacity crowd by ruling against Scotland twice in quick succession, with Halfpenny landing both penalties to put Wales a converted try in front at 22-15.

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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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130309/rugbyu-wales-beat-scotland-keep-title-hopes-alive