Scotland deservedly won their first game in Wales in 18 years and their third in a row in the Six Nations for the first time since 1996 as they battled to a 14-10 victory over Wales at Parc Y Scarlets.
In a game marred by wild swirling winds and a wet pitch, Scotland had the overwhelming advantage in the game in almost all departments – except turnovers, which were the only reason the Scots didn’t win more handsomely.
Wales were penalised a whopping 16 times, a tribute to the pressure they were under and the performance of man of the match Jamie Ritchie, who continues to see his stock rise dramatically.
The St Andrews boy won four turnover penalties on his own, including a key one before half-time when the Scots were under pressure, and the clincher in the dying minutes.
Scotland also overcame the loss of both stand-offs, Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, to injury and had reserve scrum-half Scott Steele on the wing and Stuart Hogg at 10 for the final minutes.
“We knew well we could come down here and get a performance and get a win, and I’m chuffed to bits with that,” said Hogg. “You look at this year and we’ve had to overcome a lot of things, so the injuries today were just some more.”
Stuart McInally scored Scotland’s sole try on one of their new high-powered lineout drives, Russell, Hastings and Hogg kicking the other points.
A bout of tonsilitis meant Wales’ key back rower Justin Tipuric was ruled out of the game an hour before the anthems – which felt beyond weird in a historic fixture that has played before nothing but full houses for a century.
Scotland owned the ball and territory for the opening half hour but made only cursory dents in the Welsh defence and then a key error gave Wales their advantage at the break.
The Scots pinched breakdown ball from the very first contact after kick-off which became a penalty for an illegal clearout, but the swirling wind had the first of many effects on play as it pushed Finn Russell’s attempt wide.
Lineout were a lottery as the wind caused nightmares for the hookers, and after three went squint a high kick from Hogg came back on the wind and Ryan Elias was caught offside. This time Russell was on target from 40 metres for the first points.
Scotland continued to get the benefit of most of the ball but weren’t making many inroads, their best moving floundering when Hogg darted through on an inside ball from Chris Harris but the centre was unable to hold on to the return ball with a run to the line opening in front of him.
The Scots seemed to be in control in the setpiece but Wales’ pressure kicking game was effective, especially when Taulupe Faletau picked a ball off his toes and superbly kicked low to the corner.
That was a wise option the way the lineouts were going, as Fraser Brown overthrew his man at the tail, Elias charged to the line and Wales bashed away until prop Rhys Carre squeezed over under the posts, Dan Biggar converting.
Worse for the Scots, Russell went off limping heavily to be replaced by Adam Hastings, and it took a couple of key turnovers at the breakdown, including a heroic one in the shadow of his own posts by Jamie Ritchie, to stem Wales’ sudden momentum.
From the second turnover Scotland kicked to the 22, secured lineout ball for once through Blade Thomson and forced a penalty against Tipuric’s replacement James Davies, Hastings kicking the goal for a 7-6 half-time score.
Scotland had an another scare when Hastings suffered a shoulder stinger, but he was able to carry on as Scotland continued to dominate the ball but fail to break through.
Twice promising moves ended when Scots were held up by Welsh defenders, but Scotland finally made it count with superb forward execution on the hour mark.
The scrum, with three front row replacements on, drove Wales off the ball and Hogg kicked to the corner for Scotland’s best platform of the game. Stuart McInally nailed the throw and the maul was joined by both centres and Darcy Graham to drive 20 metres to the line where the replacement hooker scored.
That went unconverted and then Hastings had to go off as well, new cap Scott Steele having to go to the right wing, Kinghorn to full-back and Hogg to stand-off after Leigh Halfpenny kicked a 30 metre penalty to bring Wales back to just a point behind.
Despite their injury problems, Scotland’s lift off the bench was certainly greater than the home side’s as carrying from Cornell du Preez and Oli Kebble in particular at the death kept Scotland going forward.
But it was fitting it was Ritchie again who forced the turnover penalty in the dying seconds as Wales desperately tried to break out of their own 22, Hogg kicking the easy penalty for a historic win in Wales at last.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, James Lang, Blair Kinghorn; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray; Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Blade Thomson.
Replacements: Stuart McInally for Brown 54, Oli Kebble for Sutherland 54, Simon Berghan for Fagerson 54, Ben Toolis, Cornell du Preez for Thomson 54, Scott Steele for Hastings 70, Adam Hastings for Russell 31, Duhan van der Merwe for Graham 66.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis; Will Rowlands, Alun Wyn Jones; Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Davies, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Sam Parry for Elias 70, Wyn Jones for Carre 49, Dillon Lewis for Francis 57, Cory Hill for Rowlands 57, Aaron Wainwright for Faletau 70, Lloyd Williams for G Davies 72, Rhys Patchell for Biggar 43, Nick Tompkins for Watkin 74.
Ref: A Brace (IRFU)