• Scotland 11-18 Wales
• Wales tries from Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies
Turmoil off the field, domestic game in chaos but at international level Wales continue to break new ground. Their 13th consecutive win duly came in Edinburgh and on they march back to Cardiff, a third grand slam of the Warren Gatland era still very much on. Only Ireland stand between them and a glorious send-off for their coach.
Scotland put Wales through their paces – and what pace these Scots play at – coaxing more than 160 tackles from Wales in the second half. Adrift by nine at the break, and looking well beaten already, they spent most of the second half in Wales’s half, scoring a brilliant first-phase try on the hour to set up a nail-biting final quarter, in which they continued to press.
Wales rode their luck, discipline-wise, but Scotland could not make their overwhelming share of possession and territory tell.
As preparation for the challenge Ireland will provide, this was of limited value to Wales. They won this game the modern way, powerful, tireless and precise. Ireland like to play that way too. Scotland – and this iteration in particular – play a completely different game, fast, deft and ambitious. But those relentless collisions take their toll and tend to be ridden better by the more powerful side.
Already suffering something of an injury crisis, Scotland were further disrupted here, losing their back three to injury, a depowering they could scarcely afford. But after a dispiriting first half, when they could not land a blow, however much they might swing, they kept coming. That one try of theirs was quicksilver and brilliant, but without quite the power of their opponents they could not make their breathless approach work tell.
They had picked a team to play one way, the one they have favoured for some years now. This was a back division that took the notions of small, quick and skilful to a degree more familiar to the amateur era.
At times in the opening minutes they played with the pace expected. Blair Kinghorn stretched Wales down the right in one flashing passage, but it was Darcy Graham who provided the early highlight for regular-shaped folk everywhere. There is nothing regular, though, about the speed of his feet and he confounded Wales in the tightest of spaces to set up Scotland for one of their two penalties of the first quarter.
But, as Scotland know only too well, everything has to click all the time for such an approach to yield results. Soon they were up against it. Tommy Seymour was lost to the passage of play when Graham did his thing, off with a rib injury.
A few minutes later Kinghorn, who tried in vain to shake off an ankle injury, followed him to the sidelines. And so Scotland had lost the two backs they had picked who might be deemed regular-shaped by professional standards.
The disparity showed. Wales did not need to hold the ball for too long to punch little dents into the shape of Scotland’s defence and, big men though they are, the personnel of their midfield are hardly without skill themselves. The sweetness of handling across it – final pass perhaps excepted – was notable in the build-up to Josh Adams’s deadly finish for try No 1, but so, too, was the ungainly shape of the defence opposite, already stressed at that early stage.
Wales scored their second on the half-hour, this one an exhibition of power and precision
Scotland had to respond and did so from the resumption. Allan Dell, ceding a couple of stone to his opposite prop but nothing in pace, was the first to make an impression, galloping deep into Welsh territory. Soon Scotland had a chance to try the multi-phase power route to the line themselves.
They are not so good at it. Everything seemed a little more rushed as the Welsh stood their ground. Dan Biggar, on for Liam Williams, who suffered a stinger to his shoulder when stopping Dell’s earlier rampage, intervened with a crucial tackle on Adam Hastings, and Adam Beard won a penalty over the ball to relieve the pressure.
The next time Scotland had a position they did what they do best. Just before the hour they struck. Another lineout in the corner and they sent the ball into midfield, Peter Horne to Finn Russell, whose brilliant inside ball sent Byron McGuigan free. He found Graham outside him and the smallest man on the field had the latest try.
Graham was forced off five minutes later, to complete the replacement of Scotland’s back three, with Ali Price moving to the wing. Still Scotland came, one break by Hamish Watson setting Murrayfield off again.
If nothing else, Wales’s famed levels of fitness were being tested but it was that extra degree of power that told, another crucial turnover won deep in their own 22.
Wales had spent barely any time in Scotland’s half in the second period, just one kick and chase from a loose Horne pass the only relief. It was telling, though, that in the last minute Wales’s one attacking position of the half yielded one last penalty, which Anscombe converted.