The Grand Slam is still on for Wales, as Warren Gatland’s men put a week of off-field turmoil behind them to secure a win over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
After beating England two weeks ago, there was only one change to the starting XV as the injured Cory Hill was replaced by Adam Beard, with Jake Ball stepping onto the bench.
In those intervening two weeks the political dealings of Welsh rugby, as Ospreys and Scarlets almost announced a merger, threatened to distract the Wales squad from matters on the field, and despite protestations to the opposite from Alun Wyn Jones, it was a slow start from the visitors at Murrayfield.
A Gareth Davies unforced error gave Scotland early field position, and although they couldn’t break towards the try line, they were able to kick a penalty through the returning Finn Russell for an early lead.
However, that sparked Wales into life and within three minutes they had hit back, with an overlap worked on the left wing for Josh Adams to streak away before stepping past Blair Kinghorn and scoring a superbly taken try, his third of the tournament so far.
Gareth Anscombe converted before trading penalties with Russell, as both sides looked vaguely threatening but lacked power behind their punches.
That was until the 30 minute mark, when a dominant Welsh attacking set of 24 phases saw the forwards drive into the heart of Scotland’s defence, before Jon Davies was put into a yard of space and managed to force his way over for a lead of 6-15, which is how the score would stay until half-time.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with Wales right under the cosh from a strong home attack, while the visitors discipline meant they could not escape from the pressure. Warren Gatland’s men would eventually finish on the wrong side of an 8-11 penalty count.
A crucial turnover from Adam Beard managed to stem the relentless onslaught temporarily, but eventually Scotland struck from a clinical first phase attack, Darcy Graham going over in the right corner and making it a four-point game with 20 minutes to go.
Fortunately the Wales defence was incredibly strong, with Shaun Edwards just reminding everyone that he is arguably the best defence coach in the world, and like in the Autumn Internationals, the men in red secured victory on their strength without the ball.
The relentless nature of the blitz, the physicality to hold carriers up and the workrate to reset the line quickly left Scotland with very little chance to manufacture a line break, as they only really threatened through individual carries from Hamish Watson and Stuart McInally.
In the end two errors from the Scottish scrum-half Ali Price, now playing on the wing due to injuries, led to Wales surviving. First he tackled Gareth Anscombe without the ball, and then he was bundled into touch by George North, with the away side seeing the game out easily.
Anscombe kicked a penalty with the last play of the game, and an 11-18 victory sees Wales go into next weekend’s game at home to Ireland knowing that a victory will secure a Grand Slam in Warren Gatland’s final Six Nations game in charge.
A victory built on the back of a superb defence, and although Scotland were admittedly fairly poor in attack, Wales will be generally pleased with their performance levels and coming away from a potential banana skin with the four points.
Against the background of off-field turmoil the players have to be praised for their workrate and concentration after what could not have been an easy week. Now time to finish the job.