Scotland arrived at the Principality stadium with momentum from a strong Autumn series. With Wales missing a large contingent of their starting XV, many tipped Gregor Townsend’s team to come away with the win.
Despite Wales missing so many star players, those who filled in are in flying form for their clubs and carried that form into the international arena. The Scarlets spine that was selected to replace Wales’ missing players performed very well and Scotland’s captain John Barclay, also a Scarlet, was one of the few positives in a woeful Scottish performance.
Here are five quick conclusions from the game.
Scotland’s Lack of Mettle
The beauty of the 6 Nations is that you travel away from home. In November, nations welcome their southern rivals to their own turf but come February, you have to let go of home comforts and perform on the road. Scotland failed to do this.
Fourteen points down is a large scoreline to come back from in the Six Nations and Scotland’s inability to put any points on the board until a soft score in the 78th minute is worrying. A misfiring line out in the 69th minute, a missed kick for touch and a crooked feed are just some of the examples that show Scotland lack a temperament capable of wining the tournament.
Underestimate Gatland At Your Peril
Pundits and fans alike questioned what Wales could be capable off in this year’s tournament with their extensive injury list. Gatland however, has continued on his ambitions to play attacking rugby from November with Wales more often than not looking to run the ball.
Many spoke about the amount of Scarlets players in the starting XV and with Gatland’s usual charges unavailable, the decision to rely on club combinations was a master stroke.
In the opening quarter alone, Finn Russell and Ali Price made errors that are categorically unforgivable in international rugby. A blatant crooked feed from Price gifted Wales possession and is the kind of mistake a referee would have highlighted in his discussion with players before the game.
Wales worked a lovely move off a scrum and Scotland worked very hard to win a turnover only for fly half Finn Russell to miss touch from the penalty. In the arena of international rugby, for your half backs to fail in the fundamentals is appalling.
In years gone by, the 6 Nations had become a tournament renowned for its defensive performances. That reputation may soon be a thing of the past if this game is any indication of things to come.
Wales and Scotland started the game with barnstorming pace, with both teams looking to attack from deep. Scotland showed huge ambition but it was Wales who had the composure and skill level to deliver on the attacking intent.
In order to secure some solidity in the fundamentals, Gregor Townsend may have to sacrifice some attacking flair. Ali Price is an exciting option at scrum half but Scotland missed Laidlaw’s experience and exposure today. The decision to start Cornell du Preez effectively left Scotland playing with fourteen men for 50 minutes. The Edinburgh back rower is, arguably, not player of international standard and was invisible before his substitution.
With many nations now able to boast ball players and carriers in their front row alone, Scotland need to be much smarter in the make up of their pack that looked light against Wales.
Both teams played the game with great intentions with an emphasis on attack but today Wales showed the level of composure that is needed on the international stage. Scotland will be disappointed with their performance after all the excitement ahead of the fixture but can still salvage their tournament at home to France next weekend.
Billy Keenan, Pundit Arena.