Wales V Scotland
Scotland suffered a disappointing opening round defeat in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations losing 34-7 to Wales in Cardiff.
The Scots travelled with confidence after a positive autumn test campaign and, on a wet, dreary day in Cardiff, closing the roof on the Principality Stadium proved the right decision as both teams looked to play with ball in hand.
Strong carries from hooker Stuart McInally and lock Jonny Gray early on suggested Scotland could put themselves in a position to end their barren streak in the Welsh capital.
But it was Wales who got off to the perfect start racing to a 14-0 lead inside 11 minutes with tries from scrum-half Gareth Davies and full-back Leigh Halfpenny.
If Davies’s interception inside his own half and 60m sprint for the line was opportunistic, Halfpenny’s finish from a well worked second phase play showed Wales’ ability to move the ball quickly and exploit space in Scotland’s defence early on.
The chance came after the home side countered straight from the Davies score restart and only a knock-on shy of the line prevented a certain try. But from the resulting scrum Scotland gave away a free-kick, Wales opted for the scrum and put Halfpenny in from short range.
The visitors could have got off to the dream start themselves after a Welsh box kick almost from kick off went straight out. From the resulting lineout Scotland applied early pressure but gave away a penalty and Wales survived.
The home side played with a clear plan to make Scotland play from deep and their robust defence frustrated the dark blue attack which failed to make consistent headway through either forwards or backs.
Scotland enjoyed 56% possession the first half and kept the scoreboard in check for the remaining 30 minutes to offer a slight foothold in the game after restricting Wales to long range attacks.
Half-time: Wales 14-0 Scotland
The second half didn’t go much better for Scotland who allowed Wales to edge the scoreline out to 20-0 with Halfpenny slotting two penalties from distance on 43 and 47 minutes respectively.
Wales sat comfortably on their lead and chose their attacks carefully, stretching what, at times, was a narrow Scottish defence.
When Scotland did get into the Wales' 22 they were pushed back or turned over and, for much of the game, looked like a score would elude them.
Stand-off Finn Russell frequently had hands on the ball and worked to create gaps and offloads but the Welsh held firm and the Scots were wasteful on more than one occasion with missed penalty kicks to touch or poor passes not going to hand.
Head Coach Gregor Townsend went to the bench early in the second half in an attempt to inject fresh legs and ideas into the team bringing on Ryan Wilson, Greig Laidlaw, Jamie Bhatti, Pete Horne and Sean Maitland.
It was Wales though who continued to look the more likely in attack with Scotland holding up prop Wyn Jones over the line to deny a certain try near the hour.
Scotland failed to clear their lines though from that let-off and Halfpenny grabbed his second try of the afternoon after a deft flick pass from Steph Evans put him in space from a few metres out.
Halfpenny converted for a 27-0 lead on 62 minutes.
Ten minutes later winger Steff Evans dived over in the far corner despite close attention from Huw Jones to give Wales their final score of 34.
Scotland put together a final rally after Horne darted through a ruck inside the Welsh 22 to put Scotland on the board, Russell converted, but it was far too little, too late.
Full-time: Wales 34-7 Scotland
SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Chris Harris, Huw Jones, Byron McGuigan; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis, Jonny Gray, John Barclay CAPTAIN, Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez. Substitutes: Scott Lawson on for McInally (69'), Jamie Bhatti on for Reid (48', reversed for blood at 76'), Murray McCallum on for Welsh (64'), Grant Gilchrist on for Toolis (54'); Ryan Wilson on for du Preez (48'); Greig Laidlaw on for Price (48'); Pete Horne on for Harris (54'); Sean Maitland on for McGuigan (54').
WALES: 15. Leigh Halfpenny; 14. Josh Adams, 13. Scott Williams, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Steff Evans; 10. Rhys Patchell, 9. Gareth Davies; 1. Rob Evans, 2. Ken Owens, 3. Samson Lee, 4. Cory Hill, 5. Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Aaron Shingler, 7. Josh Navidi, 8. Ross Moriarty. Substitutes: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Wyn Jones, 18. Tomas Francis, 19. Bradley Davies, 20. Justin Tipuric, 21. Aled Davies, 22. Gareth Anscombe,23. Owen Watkin.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FFR)
Touch judges: Romain Poite (FFR) & Matthew Carley (RFU)
TMO: David Grashoff (RFU)