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Ralph key for Wales in important win over Scotland

Wales set up a winner-takes-all World Cup qualifier with Ireland in Wrexham after scoring 50 unanswered points to beat Scotland.

Wales invited home team Scotland - who featured Ipswich forward Billy McConnachie in their team - to pressure them early on and the hosts took the lead when they shifted the ball to the right wing and Murray Mitchell put Davey Dixon in at the corner. 

A couple of minutes later, they extended their advantage through James Bell, who ran on to Kane Bentley’s short ball near the line to bulldoze his way over next to the posts. 

However, Wales’ response to falling behind was positive as they slowly began to win the ruck and made more metres in their attacking sets.

The visitors went close to opening their account when Josh Ralph – who recently re-signed with the Easts Tigers – dinked a grubber kick into the in-goal area, but it had too much weight on it and Rhodri Lloyd could only ground the ball once it had gone dead. 

Soon after, though, Wales did reduce the deficit. A half-break from Elliot Kear and hand-off to London Broncos team-mate Rhys Williams provided the field position and Ben Morris came up with a delightful offload later in the set for Williams to finish out wide. 

At this point, it was clear that Welsh tails were up as they continued to build pressure and put Scotland under the cosh by forcing a number of goal-line drop-outs.

The away side grabbed their second of the evening when Ralph floated a high kick into the air, Scotland fullback David Scott came up with an error and Elliott Jenkins gratefully collected to cross for a try on his senior debut. 

Wales thought they had added another as Kear put Mike Butt over in the right corner, but it was chalked off by referee Ben Casty. 

The Dragons started the second half as well as they had finished the first and got points on the board within the opening six minutes. They opted to run down the short side through Curtis Davies and Morris, who supplied the final pass for former CQ Capras player Williams to cut inside and bag his second try.

Josh Ralph in action for Wales v Scotland. Photos: Richard Long
Josh Ralph in action for Wales v Scotland. Photos: Richard Long

For Wales’ next score, Ralph spotted a gap in Scotland’s defensive line, broke through and Chester Butler was in support on his outside to finish the move underneath the sticks. 

Ralph’s high bombs continued to cause Scotland all kinds of problems as Craig Robertson dropped one under pressure and Jenkins was in the right place at the right to gather, crossing for his second. 

Wales’ sixth of the evening was the pick of the bunch. Despite being trapped deep in their own half on the fourth tackle, they shifted the ball across the line through Steve Parry, Connor Davies, Kear and Jenkins.

James Olds (from West Brisbane Panthers and brother of Easts Tigers half Ollie Olds) broke down the right flank, passed back to Jenkins on his inside and, while the youngster stumbled and missed out on a hat-trick, he provided the final pass for halfback partner Ralph to score instead. 

Targeting the Scottish right edge defence once again, Williams had the pace to break down the flank and he found Ralph on his inside to take Wales’ lead to 26 points.

When the Dragons next assaulted that side through Williams, the winger had the legs to go himself and completed his hat-trick, cutting inside to beat Dixon and Oscar Thomas and extend his lead as Wales’ all-time leading try scorer with 21.

If he plays against Ireland next week, he will join Jordan James and Ian Watson as the record cap holders on 30. 

Ben Evans rounded off the Welsh scoring and completed a memorable victory, knocking off four attempted tackles to twist over the line and finish next to the sticks. 

Wales next clash with Ireland at the Racecourse Stadium in Wrexham on Sunday, November 11.

Wales 50 (Williams 3, Jenkins 2, Ralph, Butler, Evans tries; Olds 7 goals) def Scotland 12 (Dixon, Bell; Brierley 2 goals)

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*This report by Ryan Gould first appeared on the Wales Rugby League website