Injury-hit Wales find their stride to brush aside Scotland in rousing Six Nations victory

Wales 34 Scotland 7: Despite their form across 2017, the visitors were unable to match the Welsh in terms of physicality and energy at the Principality Stadium

Andrew Baldock
Principality Stadium
Saturday 03 February 2018 16:47

Wales made a flying start to the NatWest 6 Nations as they blew Scotland away 34-7 in Cardiff.

The Scots, without a win in the Welsh capital since 2002, never recovered from conceding tries inside the first 12 minutes to Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies and full-back Leigh Halfpenny.

Halfpenny claimed a second touchdown after half-time and added four conversions and two penalties for a 24-point haul, before wing Steff Evans' try secured a five-point maximum as Scotland's recent resurgence came to a grinding halt.

Substitute back Peter Horne scored a consolation 79th-minute try for Scotland that Finn Russell converted, but the damage had long been done.

Huw Jones is unable to stop Leigh Halfpenny from touching down for Wales' second try

Wales' triumph marked Warren Gatland's 10th anniversary as head coach in style, although bigger challenges now await in the shape of reigning Six Nations champions England at Twickenham next weekend, then Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

Despite their injury troubles, Wales hardly missed a collective beat.

They repeatedly rocked Scotland back on their heels through outstanding performances from the likes of lock Cory Hill, flankers Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi, plus Rhys Patchell on his first Test start as fly-half.

Scotland, in contrast, lost all the the key battles, struggling up front and not being able to shackle Wales' broken-field runners on what was a sobering occasion for them.

Rhys Patchell does his best to get a pass away under pressure from the Scottish defence

Attacking forces like full-back Stuart Hogg and centre Huw Jones could not get into the game, and Wales were never seriously troubled on an afternoon when scoreline emphatically summed up their degree of dominance.

Wales launched their Six Nations campaign minus nine injured front-line players - a list of absentees that included star names like Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb - while Scotland had major front-five issues, being without their leading props and second-row talisman Richie Gray.

Scotland, fresh from an impressive autumn campaign when they crushed Australia and ran world champions New Zealand close, were immediately on the front foot following Davies' poor clearance, with lock Jonny Gray running deep inside the opposition 22.

Although Wales gained a penalty to relieve the danger, Scotland had made their intention clear to put pace and width on the ball, yet the home side stung them through a 60-metre breakaway score when Gareth Davies caught his opposite number Ali Price's pass and sprinted clear.

Scotland's line-out was a mess for much of the game

Halfpenny converted, before Wales almost conjured a spectacular try when forwards Shingler, Hill, Rob Evans and Alun Wyn Jones combined brilliantly, but Steff Evans dropped Jones' pass just five metres from Scotland's line.

But it was only a temporary reprieve as Wales sacrificed a kickable penalty for an attacking scrum, and then making it pay as they exposed Scotland defensively and Halfpenny claimed his first Wales try for five years, before his conversion made it 14-0 after 12 minutes.

Scotland inevitably took time to recover their composure following the ferocity of Wales' start, yet even when they had possession it was mostly from unthreatening positions, and they remained scoreless as half-time approached.

And there were only five minutes to the break when Wales came under sustained pressure for the first time, facing a five-metre attacking Scottish scrum, but a handling error in midfield thwarted the Scots and Wales surged upfield through centre Hadleigh Parkes' lengthy touch-finder.

Gareth Davies clears from a box kick

Wales began the second period in untroubled mode, as two Halfpenny penalties during a five-minute spell took them 20 points clear before Scotland boss Gregor Townsend made a triple substitution, including an appearance for scrum-half and former Test captain Greig Laidlaw.

But it made no difference to the overall picture as Halfpenny went over for his second try, adding the conversion to end things as a contest and confirm Townsend's Six Nations coaching debut as one to forget.

Steff Evans then sealed the deal through a spectacular diving one-handed finish, with Halfpenny's conversion ending Scottish misery and sending Wales to London next Saturday in confident mood.


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