Leigh Halfpenny scored 24 points as Wales recorded a 34-7 bonus-point win over Scotland at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Six Nations is always hyped-up and this breathless 80-minute adrenaline rush of an encounter certainly justified it this year.
In a clash worthy of being the tournament opener, Wales put on an incredible ball-in-hand display, treating the partisan Cardiff crowd to end-to-end action under the closed stadium roof.
Wales – ravaged by injuries and given little chance of winning – made the most of their opportunities. They controlled possession, dominated the tackle area and won the breakdown battle.
By contrast, Scotland were made to rue their squandered chances. As frustration built up, their discipline disintegrated, which saw the visitors conceding a plethora of penalties in the scrum, in open play and at the breakdown.
Scotland were in total control for the first five minutes of the game, but Wales successfully defended their line. And it was off a solid defensive passage of play that Wales opened the scoring. Scotland scrumhalf Ali Price carelessly threw a skip pass, enabling his direct opponent – Gareth Davies – to stick out a hand for the intercept and run the length of the field to score at the other end.
That killed off Scotland’s momentum and Wales showed great awareness to take advantage of the situation. Having secured possession again, the Welsh orchestrated a patient build-up inside the 22 and when the ball was shifted wide Halfpenny latched onto the final pass and went over for a self-converted try for a 14-0 lead.
The Wales – and in particular Halfpenny – show continued into the second half, while Scotland continued to suffer.
Halfpenny extended the lead to 20 points with two penalties, but the fullback wasn’t done yet. In the 62nd minute, Wales broke away from the middle and after a sustained spell of excellent ball retention, the ball was flicked to Halfpenny, who finished with a swan-dive in the right-hand corner.
Things went from bad to worse for Scotland as they conceded a fourth try when Steff Evans turned on the afterburners to score a one-handed try while airborne.
Scotland upped their intensity towards the end of the match, scoring a try through Peter Horne, but it was Wales who celebrated a convincing win.
Wales – Tries: Gareth Davies, Leigh Halfpenny (2), Steff Evans. Conversions: Halfpenny (4). Penalties: Halfpenny (2).
Scotland – Try: Peter Horne. Conversion: Finn Russell.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Justin Tupiric, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Owen Watkin.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid.
Subs: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Sean Maitland.
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images