Wales suffered a fifth successive defeat and finished fifth in the 2020 Guinness Six Nations after going down to Scotland at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.
Wayne Pivac’s men were looking for a return to form after starting the Autumn with a loss away to France, and sported seven changes to that side that took the field in Paris as Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands and Shane Lewis-Hughes joined the pack, while Gareth Davies, Owen Watkin and Liam Williams bolstered the backs. A late change saw James Davies start in place of the ill Justin Tipuric.
Scotland almost scored the first points of the game inside the first two minutes when James Davies was turned over at just the second breakdown, but Finn Russell’s kick at goal was taken by a typical West Wales wind that swirled around Parc y Scarlets making kicking out of hand and throwing in at the lineout difficult.
In the end they had to wait until the 10th minute though as Ryan Elias was in front of a Gareth Davies knock on and Russell adjusted to the wind to score three points.
The following 20 minutes were certainly forgettable in the long history of games between Wales and Scotland as both sides went through extended attacking sets from struggled to break the opposition defence down, while there were errors aplenty at the set piece and in open play.
Eventually the deadlock was broken after the most unlikely of things; a Taulupe Faletau kick into the Scots 22. Fraser Brown overthrew a poorly called defensive lineout and Ryan Elias pounced with Wales camping on the try line and eventually powering over through Rhys Carre’s first try in a red jersey.
Dan Biggar converted but right on the stroke of half-time James Davies was penalised on the floor and Adam Hastings, on for the injured Russell, made no mistake of the tee to make the scores 7-6 as the teams went in at half-time.
The first 20 minutes of the second half followed a similar tack to the middle 20 of the first half, with both team going through attacking sets but unable to turn possession into points. Wales in particular threatened after the break but a toothless attack could not create try scoring opportunites.
Then ill discipline crept into the home side’s game and consecutive penalties gave Scotland a lineout in the opposition 22, forming a strong driving maul and pushing over from 15 metres out with Stuart McInally in possession. Hastings converted to ensure the away side had a cushion.
Wales hit back quickly with a Leigh Halfpenny conversion allowing himself to cut the lead down to one point off the tee, but the final quarter was a game management masterclass from Scotland in spite of the fact that their backup fly-half Hastings had departed through injury.
Going through the phases they kept possession brilliantly and the kicking of Ali Price pinned Wales back inside their 22, a position from which the direction-less attack was never going to get out from. Eventually Jamie Ritchie, a persistent thorn in the side of the hosts all afternoon, won yet another penalty over the ball and Stuart Hogg made the game safe.
A final score of 10-14 as a fairly poor game of rugby was deservedly won by Scotland, with Wales’ coaching staff now under serious pressure going into what should have been an Autumn Nations Cup campaign that allowed them to experiment with personnel and tactics.
Instead they will be expected to find the answers to an increasing number of questions, particularly in attack, quickly in order to put an end to this losing streak and prove they are the right people to take Wales forward. The eyes of the nation are on them.