The unbiased observer would understand the Welsh supporters viewing this first battle of the six nations with a certain amount of trepidation. Scotland had shone in the Autumn Internationals, whilst Wales, from the ignominy of the passive scrum gamesmanship to avoid a draw against Georgia to the sublime first quarter against South Africa, sandwiching the meat of another missed opportunity against New Zealand had displayed the performances of Mrs Gump’s box of chocolates; You never knew what you’d get.
So it was again, with the roof closed and a beautiful day outside and a great one for the Welsh, as it transpired, inside they served up yet another unexpected display. However it was not all Wales in the opening salvos of the game, you kick to Scotland at your peril, and after an indifferent kick from Davies, Johnny Gray found himself isolated with the ball and the line begging, one could nearly read the expression on his face – “how did this happen?” The threat was snuffed out, but Scotland still had the pressure, until Ali Price’s pass was intercepted by Gareth Davies, another perplexed expression – it’s a long way to the line from your own half, I could hear the aforementioned Mrs G “Run Gareth, Run” with the gas running out of his legs he managed to avoid the flailing arm of Chris Harris and slid over for the first try.
Leigh Halfpenny added a second a few minutes later when Wales back line surgically cut apart Scotland’s defence, so much so that Steff Evans had time to point to show Halfpenny where to cross the line. There had been whispers in some quarters in Wales that Halfpenny may not deserve a place in the starting line-up, for shame, two tries and a perfect kicking record belittles those sentiments, and while Shingler put in a colossal shift, should Halfpenny been awarded “Seren Y Gem” not many voices would have been raised in protest.
Halfpenny’s second half try was complemented by one from Steff Evans, which had more than a look of a forward pass about it, and coupled with a brace of Halfpenny penalties they gave the game the feeling of a rout. A late Scottish consolation try, I am told, was greeted in an Edinburgh pub with a roar that would normally signal victory, and gave the unusually hapless Scots some points on the board.
Post match, Gatland asserted that the performance from Wales was not unexpected and that he had thought that Wales “would win by about 20 points” however hindsight always has 20/20, and Warren, it would have been nice to be a party to that sentiment before the game. What is unequivocal though is the fact that Wales have put to bed the “no strength in depth” fallacy. With eight Lions missing they put a Scotland team to the sword in no uncertain terms, and Gatland’s selection problems should be pleasant ones in the next week.
Here in Wales we shall still look forward to our Twickenham experience with some cause for concern, but at least we will have more cause for hope than we could muster last Saturday morning.