Scotland were left rueing a hatful of missed scoring chances as they continued their sorry run against Wales in a frenetic RBS 6 Nations match at BT Murrayfield.
Wales’ far greater experience was probably crucial in continuing their run of wins since 2007 in the end, and their excellence at the kicking game was a problem throughout for the Scots, but the home side had more than enough try scoring opportunities to get the win they so craved.
Wales’ scrambling and often desperate defence and a lack of composure from their team that was naggingly familiar to Scotland fans confined the home side to just two tries, one a long-range counterattack score by Stuart Hogg and the other a stretch from a yard by Jon Welsh on the last play.
Some thought Scotland were denied two tries with referee Glen Jackson opting not to consult the TV Match Official on incident at the end of each half, although he did use Simon McDowell to disallow a Welsh try in the second half.
The visitors did score two tries from Rhys Webb and Jonathan Davies, and the difference on the scoreboard was Leigh Halfpenny’s four penalties from five attempts to Greig Laidlaw’s three successes from three.
After the team were introduced to the R&A’s latest member, HRH Princess Royal, Wales dominated the first ten minutes but conceded the opening try to a brilliant counterattack from the Scots.
Halfpenny had kicked Wales ahead with a 6th minute penalty as Wales probed at the Scottish defence, but when Alex Cuthbert was scythed down by Alex Dunbar in midfield, Finn Russell pounced for the turnover and Stuart Hogg showed a clean pair of heels to Richard Hibbard and Rhys Webb on a 60-yard sprint under the posts, leaving Laidlaw with an easy conversion.
Emboldened by that spectacular score, Scotland nearly had another within three minutes but Dunbar’s pass was too high for Mark Bennett after Finn Russell had created the gap.
From solid lineout ball the Scots did force a penalty in midfield for killing the ball, and Laidlaw kicked them into a handy 10-3 lead with 17 minutes played.
But Scotland’s inability to make their touch kicks and Wales’ aerial bombardment started to have an effect, Halfpenny’s collecting one high ball and only Hogg’s brilliant cover tackle saving the day, although the Welsh full back landed a penalty for not rolling away.
The Scots did repel a strong Welsh attack and two lineout drives, but another missed touch and high kick brought reward for Wales, this time when Dan Biggar was clumsily taken out in the air by Russell, who went to the sin bin as a result.
Barely had the Scotland 10 sat down than the Scots turned the ball over deep in the Welsh half, and when the men in red counterattacked making full use of the extra man, Liam Williams raced free on the wide left and supplied the supporting Webb for the try, converted by Halfpenny.
Wales then got it to 14 men apiece when Jonathan Davies took out Johnnie Beattie in the air, but although Scotland threatened with a powerful driving maul and camped on the Welsh line just before half-time, first Dunbar was held short and then Laidlaw reached closer, but Jackson didn’t check upstairs and the chance was missed.
The teams exchanged penalties at the start of the second half before Laidlaw landed a long one on 52 minutes to take Scotland to within three points, but the Scots got a big let-off when they failed to defend another high kick.
Wales won a penalty and went for the lineout, and as they drove to the line Webb spun off and fed Liam Williams to dive over. But although Glen Jackson gave the score, he was told by touch judge George Clancy to check with the TV official, who spotted an obstruction on Rob Harley and the play was reversed.
However with 15 minutes left Sctoland’s inability to clear their lines cost them again, as Wales pressed and replacement Matt Scott couldn’t hold Davies in open field, the Lions centre going over under the posts for the key score.
Scotland replacement Gordon Reid was taken off after a head knock in the build up to the try after only three minutes on the pitch, but the Scots had a mountain to climb to get back in the game.
Bennett’s clean break gave them the opportunity to do that, but desperate Welsh defence through a series of equally desperate and often frantic charges at the line held until the visitors forced a turnover.
Then Hogg’s break and replacement Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s run in support got the Scots in behind again, but although Bennett was there to crash over Jackson adjudged the pass was forward again without consulting the TMO, although pictures showed it was a good try.
Finally replacement prop Welsh crashed over from a tap penalty and Russell converted, but the precious moments were lost as a fight broke out after the score, and time ran out on the Scots.
Scotland: S Hogg; S Lamont, M Bennett, A Dunbar (all Glasgow Warriors, rep M Scott (Edinburgh) 58), T Visser (Edinburgh); F Russell (Glasgow Warriors), G Laidlaw (Gloucester, capt, S Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh) 72); A Dickinson ( G Reid (Glasgow Warriors) 62) , R Ford (both Edinburgh, F Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 72), G Cross (London Irish, J Welsh (Glasgow Warriors) 50); J Gray (Glasgow Warriors), R Gray (Castres Olympique, J Hamilton (Saracens) 57); R Harley (Glasgow Warriors), B Cowan (London Irish), J Beattie (Castres Olympique), A Strokosch (Perpignan) 59).
Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, L Williams: D Biggar, R Webb; G Jenkins (P James 73), R Hibbard (S Baldwin 61), A Jarvis (S Andrews 61); A W Jones, J Ball (L Charteris 61); D Lydiate (J Tipuric 62), S Warburton (capt), T Faletau.
Ref: G Jackson (NZRFU)