Gregor Townsend's men came away with a first win in the Welsh capital since 2002
It all looked so easy at 27-0 up. Scotland were coasting and the result looked beyond doubt. How wrong we were. Wales roared back into the contest, scoring 26 unanswered points as Scotland conceded 14 penalties in a row and had two players sent to the sin-bin.
Once the dust settles, Gregor Townsend can be proud of his side winning in Cardiff for the first time in 22 years but he will be deeply unsatisfied at the way they allowed Wales to storm back into a contest that looked over bar the shouting. The relief at the final whistle was palpable with barely a celebration on field.
Duhan van der Merwe’s double after Pierre Schoeman’s opening try helped Scotland build that substantial lead after 43 minutes and eventually it proved to be just enough to withstand a supreme rearguard effort from Warren Gatland’s new-look Welsh side and retain the Doddie Weir Cup.
It was a proper game of two halves as Wales did all the running for the final 37 minutes as Scotland’s discipline went by the wayside but eventually they ran out of time to preserve their impressive home record.
Scotland survive a breathless encounter against Wales
Scotland roared into life at the start of their Six Nations campaign as captain Russell and Sione Tuipolutu ran amok in the first half.
Pierre Schoeman, who has shaved off his usually luscious long locks for charity, burrowed over from close range for the first score before Tuipolutu’s perfectly-timed pull-back found Russell whose dummy and pass gave van der Merwe the easiest of run-ins.
Scotland went in 20-0 to the good at the break and things got even better when van der Merwe sliced his way through the Wales defence three minutes into the second period. It wasn’t quite as spectacular as the worldie he managed at Twickenham last year but it was certainly reminiscent.
At 27-0 down, Wales looked dead and buried but Warren Gatland’s men found something from somewhere to finally give the packed crowd something to cheer under the roof. A rampaging maul hurtled towards the line and James Botham got the score. George Turner’s cynical collapse saw Scotland reduced to 14 as the hooker was sent to the sin-bin.
Ioan Lloyd, on at No 10 for Sam Costelow who failed an HIA, dragged his conversion attempt wide but Wales had their tails up. Gatland had rung the changes at half-time and the troops kept coming on with renewed vigour, spurred on by a crowd awoken from its slumber by a first score of the 2024 campaign for those in red.
The pressure did not relent and eventually it told when Rio Dyer darted over in the corner. Lloyd found his kicking boots and slotted a touchline conversion to give the home side hope at 27-12. All the momentum was now with Wales and referee Ben O’Keeffe was penalising Scotland at regular intervals.
Captain Russell was warned about his team’s conduct and his partner in crime Tuipolutu was given his marching orders after Player of the Match Aaron Wainwright barged over for Wales’ third score.
Now just eight points down, Wales had more than a puncher’s chance and Scotland were hanging on for dear life without their No 12. Eventually the penalty count told as Lloyd kicked to the corner and replacement Alex Mann broke off the maul to score on his international debut.
Lloyd slotted the extras to incredibly make it a one-point game with 12 minutes to go. Gleeful disbelief is the only way to describe the palpable emotion that all those in red were experiencing by this point.
Tuipolutu returned but a back-row injury crisis saw him packing down on the flank, typifying the kind of carnage that had become normal for this topsy-turvy game.
Scotland then finally started to look like they might close the game out. The game finished with a slight anticlimax with Scotland held up and the clock in the red. Job done but that barely tells the full story.
For Wales, it’s the end of a run that is older than their new captain Dafydd Jenkins, but they will take heart from their second-half display as they head to Twickenham next weekend.
France showed plenty of frailties against Ireland and Scotland will return to Murrayfield eager to match last year’s start to the tournament by recording back-to-back wins for only the second time.