Scotland V Wales
It was an afternoon for records, to Scotland's detriment - the most attempted penalty kicks in a game than in any match in international rugby history resulting in a hugely frustrating afternoon for both teams and less than the spectacle anticipated by the full house at Murrayfield, despite flashes of what could have been.
Head coach Scott Johnson shared the frustration and the promise. "We put ourselves under a lot of pressure but we showed what we could do in defence and our players defended like madmen," he lamented.
The home support of a capacity crowd at the national stadium arrived in hope and some expectation that Scotland's run would continue with a third Six Nations win on the bounce, however it was a game that never quite moved on from first base with penalty after penalty stifling any creativity to break and flair to score.
Wales made the opening move in a testy relationship when, after a series of failed scrums - a recurring theme unfortunately - Halfpenny succeeded with his penalty attempt, the scores levelled after six minutes when Greig Laidlaw skimmed the top coat of the uprights to make it 3-3.
There was a thrill in the dark of an otherwise stop-start opening period of play when Matt Scott showcased his kicking flair with a belter to touch to put Scotland five metres from the Welsh line. Scotland went ahead for the first time two minutes later but not by the hoped-for five points as another penalty was slotted by Laidlaw, the Welsh pinged for obstruction. Stuart Hogg on the attack.
Infringements at the breakdown, scrum after scrum reset - only three scrums in the entire game didn't end in a free kick or a penalty - and frustration a-plenty didn't add to the spectacle.
Though awarded a series of penalties midway through the half, it was three misses from three for Halfpenny in a period of possession for the visitors that ended in a slow-motion score - the only try of the game - for the visitors, Hibbard heaving himself across the whitewash to claim the five points. Halfpenny found his feet this time and the converted score put some fresh air between the teams at 6-10.
As penalty ping-pong recommenced, Laidlaw brought the score to within one point before Richie Gray landed awkwardly and was replaced by Al Kellock. Initial reports suggested a hamstring strain for the lock who was stretchered from the field as a precaution.
The break added some fire to the performances as Duncan Weir showed the way with a tidy chip over the defender, then he won the chase, kicked the ball on and tackled Dan Biggar over the try line to win Scotland a scrum five.
However, the half ended with...another penalty, from Laidlaw, which briefly put the home side ahead before the lead was cancelled out on the whistle by Halfpenny after another infringement with Jim Hamilton the guilty party.
Despite frequent warnings in the first half, things didn't improve much in the next forty minutes regarding 'behaviour' at the scrum though there were no repercussions beyond yet more penalties with Laidlaw goaling twice and Halfpenny four times edging ahead to make it 18-25 with 15 minutes left.
Ryan Wilson was welcomed on to the field, as Scotland player 1038, replacing Beattie, but even his debut didn't spark much fire into the run of play.
It was 74 minutes before the game roared into life again, as the Scots tried to inject pace, passion and more-than-penalties into proceedings, a sustained barrage of attack, completed passes, numbers up front and blatant desire to cross the line.
A quite blatant side entry from Adam Jones at a lineout five metres from the Welsh line went unpunished from the South African referee Craig Joubert in a cameo that summed up Scotland's frustrations.
There was no happy ending to the final chapter, however, as it was turnover ball, another penalty to Wales and game over, 18-28 in a match where the stats broke records of the wrong kind.
Scott Johnson added:
"These are two quality sides that played today. There isn't much between us and that bodes well for us. But we didn't play rugby the way we want to play today and we struggled with scrums and turnovers."
With a week to regroup, review and recharge, Scotland must now look to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, kill the indiscipline and put in a powerful performance in Paris next weekend.
Johnson made it clear he would not indulge in referee bashing, stressing that Scotland would "look at themselves in the mirror" to address what he described as "our own ills". Yet the absolute farce of the scrummage clearly irked him.
"We have a world-class front-row and we want to scrummage. A basic principle of rugby union is the contest for possession. We want to contest the scrum."
Today that just didn't happen.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser; Duncan Weir, Greig Laidlaw; Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Rob Harley, Kelly Brown (captain), Johnnie Beattie. Replacements: Dougie Hall, Moray Low, Geoff Cross (on for Murray, 75mins), Alastair Kellock (on for Gray, 29mins), Ryan Wilson (on for Beattie, 67mins), Henry Pyrgos, Ruaridh Jackson for Weir (77 mins) and Max Evans. Scotland debut: Ryan Wilson (Scotland player 1038)
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones (captain), Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau. Replacements: Ken Owens, Ryan Bevington (for Hibbard, 60mins), Scott Andrews (for Faletau, 80mins), Andrew Coombs, Justin Tipuric (for R Jones, 48mins), Lloyd Williams (for Roberts, 72mins), James Hook and Scott Williams (for Cuthbert, 72mins).
Referee: Craig Joubert(SARU)