Gatland’s team will head to Edinburgh next weekend for an appointment with resurgent Scotland, knowing that their tournament hopes and ambitions are already under intense scrutiny.
A 34-10 loss to title favourites Ireland at the Principality Stadium shredded any fairy-tale script that might have accompanied Gatland’s return for his second stint as Wales head coach.
It ended up being Wales’ biggest Six Nations reversal in Cardiff since Ireland crushed them 36-6 in 2001.
“The discipline and soft penalties cost us,” Gatland said.
“I think there were about 16 penalties (in total), which just isn’t good enough. You need to get that down to under 10 in international rugby.”
Wales conceded 27 points during the first 27 minutes, such was Ireland’s domination amid thumping confirmation of their current status as the world’s top team.
And while Wales’ second-half display showed vast improvement – along with fine displays by young prospects Rio Dyer, Joe Hawkins and Jac Morgan – the damage had already been done.
Gatland added: “We created a number of chances but we weren’t clinical enough to finish them.
“There were definitely some good moments. We made some nice breaks and I thought we had some really good momentum in the (Ireland) 22, but just didn’t come away with those points.
“At the end of the game, I said in my head that I actually wasn’t that disappointed with our performance. In the past, we’ve been able to work hard and fix things.”
Gatland will make at least one change for the Scotland clash, with lock Alun Wyn Jones ruled out after failing a head injury assessment.
Exeter’s Dafydd Jenkins is likely to be handed a first Test start as his replacement, while Gatland will need updates on prop Tomas Francis, who went off at half-time because of a calf muscle issue.
Underlining the players’ sense of frustration, Dyer said: “We let them get into the flow of things a little bit too much, and we ended up just chasing the game instead of being in control of it.
“If you lose a game, I think no matter what, you can be positive about parts of the performance, but there are obviously some things that haven’t gone right that need to be criticised.
“We all knew that first-half wasn’t good enough. If we carried on playing the same way, teams like that could easily put 60 points on you.
“It was on us to go out there and show that we didn’t want to mess around, and that showed in the second half.”
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