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Wales beats Scotland, keeps Six Nations title defence alive

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Associated Press
3/9/2013 3:54:54 PM
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EDINBURGH -- Leigh Halfpenny found his goal-kicking form when it really mattered to boot Wales to a 28-18 victory over Scotland on Saturday, keeping his team's Six Nations defence alive heading into the final weekend.

The reigning champions were only 13-12 ahead at the break after fullback Halfpenny untypically missed three of his first four kicks, but he was successful with five in a row in the second half to settle a messy, error-strewn match at Murrayfield.

Wales hooker Richard Hibbard scored the game's only try -- plunging over from close range in the 22nd minute -- as the visitors forced Scotland to live off scraps of possession and rely on the kicking of Greig Laidlaw, who kicked six penalties from eight attempts.

Wales' third straight win means it will take on old rival England in Cardiff next Saturday with the title up for grabs, no matter what the tournament leaders do in their home match against Italy on Saturday.

The points difference between the top two is currently seven, although England is expected to easily beat the Azzurri at Twickenham.

The Scots, who were also seeking a victory to stay in the hunt for the title, required courage and a dollop of fortune to eke out a 12-8 win over a misfiring Ireland two weeks ago, and they tried to use the same formula to produce another result here.

Indeed, despite being way behind in the possession and territory statistics, they were somehow only a points behind -- 16-15 -- with 25 minutes remaining but then Halfpenny helped Wales pull away. Some impressive defending, led by flanker Sam Warburton on his recall to the team, ensured there was no way back for Scotland late on.

It was the third straight game, after wins in France and Italy, in which the Welsh didn't concede a try as they sealed a fifth straight away win in the championship.

"(Assistant coach) Shaun Edwards has emphasized our defence every week. He is a superb defence coach and he wanted us to stop Scotland, and we are delighted to have gone another game without conceding a try," said Warburton, who lost the captaincy after missing the past two matches through injury.

"It's a brilliant win and we are so pleased. We knew it would be tough as it is always tough up here, but we are delighted with the win."

After the thrill of its four-try 34-10 win over Italy, Scotland has failed to score a try in its past two games.

"I am frustrated, but I have said in the dressing room we have to acknowledge our ills," said interim Scotland coach Scott Johnson, who used to coach Wales. "We showed great heart and great resolve, but we have to look at ourselves rather than at anyone else."

Leigh Halfpenny (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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