Scotland’s much-trumpeted 6 Nations revival came crashing to earth at Cardiff with a complete capitulation to a Wales side missing eight of their best players but still easily good enough to rout their visitors.
It was Twickenham 2017 all over again for the Scots fans coming to South Wales with buoyant optimism about a first win in Cardiff since 2002 only to see their team crush their hopes again.
A gift interception try for Gareth Davies after just seven minutes asked the question of the Scots’ resilience when adversity strikes away from Murrayfield, and the answer was, bluntly, pathetic.
A second try within three minutes for Leigh Halfpenny followed, and Scotland never got close to the Welsh again. They were forcing the play from then on and far too loose, and by the second half their shape and structure seemed to desert them completely.
Halfpenny kicked two penalties and then scored his second try, and in the dying minutes Steff Evans completed the rout with a third try in the corner.
Pete Horne’s late try saved the shutout for Scotland but Wales were probably worthy of a couple more scores had they finished better.
Few Scots covered themselves in glory and merely confirmed those – perhaps including Wales and Lions coach Warren Gatland – who suspected they lacked backbone. Stuart Hogg and Hamish Watson gave their all, the scrummage went far better than expected, but Scotland’s narrow defence was blatantly exposed by Wales going wide.
Scotland had an early chance to take the lead but instead a nightmare five minutes had them chasing the game before anyone had a chance to draw breath.
Jonny Gray made 35 metres pushing off tacklers deep into the Welsh 22 on the Scots’ first attack, but Ali Price was turned over in the shadow pf the Welsh posts trying to go solo and the chance was gone.
And the scrum-half was the fall guy again in eight minutes with a long pass anticipated by opposite number Gareth Davies, who intercepted and sprinted 60 metres for the opening try, converted by Halfpenny.
And from the kick-off Wales attacked from deep, Aaron Shingler made clean break and it appeared the Scots had dodged a bullet when Alun Wyn Jones pass was spilled by Steff Evans with the line wide open.
But Price’s nightmare continued as he was penalised for a crooked feed, and although the Scots got a shove on the scrum the Welsh pounded the line to suck in defenders before moving it wide for an easy try for Halfpenny, which he converted himself.
The Scots were far too loose with a majority of the possession as they tried to fight their way back into the contest, Wales content to kick it long and defend in numbers.
Twice the Scots got good attacking platforms with lineouts in the Welsh half but a squint throw and move in which the centres got mixed up allowed Wales to relieve any pressure.
Five minutes from half-time Scotland had a real scoring chance when Huw Jones kicked ahead and snagged Halfpenny behind the Welsh line, but from the solid scrum-five Chris Harris couldn’t hold a flat pass from Price and Wales cleared with ease.
Any hope of a Scottish revival ended with a laboured exit from the second half kick-off which eventually saw Wales counterattack and Barclay was penalised, Halfpenny kicking an easy penalty.
The captain was probably unlucky to be pinged at a breakdown near halfway, and Halfpenny stretched it to 20-0.
The Scots were ever more desperate and making no impact against the Welsh defence, and although they were held up over the line, they worked the space for Halfpenny to dive over again, and he duly added the two points.
Scotland were buckling now and were hugely fortunate when replacement prop Wyn Jones was held up by Huw Jones, and back up stand-off Gareth Anscombe couldn’t hold a pass from his captain with no defenders left.
But when another risky Russell pass was intercepted near halfway, Wales counterattacked, perhaps with the benefit of a forward pass but Evans’ finish in the corner was outstanding.
Halfpenny converted and while Horne, on as a replacement, caught the defence napping with a sneaky burst from a ruck to at least put the Scots on the scoreboard, it restored none of the pride lost on another dark day in Cardiff.
Wales: L Halfpenny; J Adams, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Evans, K Owens, S Lee; C Hill, AW Jones (captain); A Shingler, J Navidi, R Moriarty.
Replacements: E Dee for Owens 63, W Jones for R Evans 50, T Francis for Lee 50, B Davies for Hill 56, J Tipuric for Moriarty 65, A Davies for G Davies 66, G Anscombe for Patchell 63, O Watkin for Williams 71.
Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour, C Harris, H Jones, B McGuigan; F Russell, A Price; G Reid, S McInally, J Welsh; B Toolis, J Gray; J Barclay (captain), H Watson, C du Preez.
Replacements: S Lawson for McInally 70, J Bhatti for Reid 49, M McCallum for Welsh 65, G Gilchrist for Toolis 55, R Wilson for du Preez 49, G Laidlaw for Price 49, P Horne for Harris 55, S Maitland for McGuigan 55.
Ref: P Gauzere (FFR)