Edinburgh: Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones said the character the team displayed in coming from 17-3 down to beat Scotland 25-24 in a thrilling Six Nations clash showed they “still had pride in the jersey”.
Two tries from impressive 20-year-old wing Louis Rees-Zammit helped them to a second successive win, having beaten Ireland in their opening game.
For the second game running the Welsh won against a team reduced to 14 men, with Scotland prop Zander Fagerson sent off in the second half.
Jones felt that even before the red card - for making contact with prop Wyn Jones’s head - Wales were on top.
Whether he was right or not Wales sit atop the table, which given a poor 2020 will be music to the ears of head coach Wayne Pivac.
The New Zealander entered the tournament with the pressure firmly on his shoulders to show the poor results in his first year - three wins in 10 Tests - had been worth the pain.
Jones said it was pleasing to see “that character again” and the refusal to accept defeat. The Scots had inched ahead again after Fagerson’s dismissal with captain Stuart Hogg’s second try of the game.
“Senior guys are still trying to put those performances in and lead by example,” said Jones. “We’ve got a young set of players who are not afraid to take that leadership. You can’t give teams a two-try lead, but we still have the pride in the jersey.”
Jones said the performance had been an improvement on the 21-16 defeat of the Irish, especially in the line-out which had been a weakness throughout last year and carried on into the Ireland match.
“We spoke last week and a lot of the errors were down to execution,” he said. “We corrected that. It’s about incremental and continual improvements. We were pleased with our maul defence too.”
Pivac for his part said he too had been impressed by the gutsy way his side had scrapped their way back into contention.
Rees-Zammit’s first try shortly before half-time to make it 17-8 proved crucial in giving the Welsh hope.
“They showed a lot of character,” said Pivac. “At that stage of the game, it wasn’t going to script. But we regathered our thoughts and got the score before half-time. We reacted well in the second half, the boys that came on did well and it’s nice to get the result.”
Pivac conceded it was not the “complete performance” and with England next up in Cardiff in a fortnight there is a lot of work to be done.
He said the reason for the turnaround in their fortunes lay in the seeds he had sown last year.
“It’s well documented what we did in the autumn and putting out some young players,” said Pivac. “We called upon that added depth today. The senior players are leading well and guys are enjoying coming to work. It’s a squad effort but it’s a long way to go.”
His Scotland counterpart Gregor Townsend said his side should have added to last week’s win over England at Twickenham, but lamented their ill discipline - and not just the red card.
Townsend was sceptical as to whether Fagerson should have been sent off, arguing that not enough angles were shown.
“Discipline was number one why we lost. When you go to 14 men for 25-30 minutes you make life more difficult,” he said. “When you give away penalties that lead to points you are not helping your chances.”
Hogg agreed with Townsend that a series of penalties cost them dearly but denied they had thrown the game away.
“The way we played when down to 14 men shows the character and ability we have got,” said Hogg. “Yes it hurts of course. However, I fully expect we can go over to Paris and beat France (on February 28).”
Earler, England thumped Italy 41-18.