Sunday, 4 February 2018

Wales 34 v Scotland 7

In the pantheon of "enormously disappointing Scotland performances in sport," this one will get a chapter all to itself. I was in Cardiff in 2014 when Wales ran up a record 50 points against us. It was a painful day to be supporting Scotland but it wasn't a surprise on a day when Wales were expected to win by a good margin.

Yesterday Scotland rolled into Cardiff with an exuberant and expectant following coming on the back of several great performances two months ago when we beat the Aussies twice and came within a whisker of beating New Zealand. I always say that Scotland save their best performances for the Autumn Tests and their worst for the 6 Nations. However, even I was lured into a false sense of optimism yesterday in spite of my better judgement. I spent twenty minutes on the train yesterday morning considering a big bet on Scotland this year. Not to win it at 9-1 you understand but maybe a top-two finish? I kept looking at the current squad and wondering how good some of these new players actually are? I also struggled to see past a scrummaging front row bereft of Ross Ford and AP Nell. Pleased to say I decided not to wager on the rugby.

Having checked into our hotel (we were shifted from the Exchange to the Radisson Blu last week, having booked it last May) we met my Uncle in the Prince of Wales pub where the bouncers were under strict orders to avoid the human jam that this pub has always been in the past when we have visited. The good news was that we were early enough to avoid queuing and able to enjoy a few pints without long waits at the bar. Our seats were in the very last row at the top of the stand and we settled down with a spectacular view of the action. That was the end of the best part of the day.

Scotland started brightly and pegged Wales back into their own half. It all looked good for five or ten minutes and then Wales scored a simple try as Ali Price's feed from the scrum was intercepted following a telegram and it was 7-0. When Wales ran in a second try to open up a 14-0 lead it looked like we would have to deliver a fightback, the likes of which I have never seen. 

Sure enough, after the break Wales kicked two penalties which ended any realistic Scottish hopes and it really was then a case of damage limitation. Scotland were poor from front-to-back and side-to-side. I don't recall us even winning a penalty and every time we got into a scoring position, Wales turned us over. We made our way out before the end so we didn't even see Scotland's try which I am sure was a consolation as Wales finally eased off the gas. 

Gregor Townsend has spoken of his "shock" at the performance and has said it wasn't good enough. That's what everyone present felt and said yesterday but he is the Coach and he needs to be explaining what went wrong what is going to change. From where I sat, we were leaderless. Stuart Hogg was prompting from the back but he was covering so desperately that we were all at sixes and sevens upfront and everyone looked content to concentrate on defending to earn their cap instead of trying to take the game to Wales. 

I am going to Edinburgh, Dublin and Rome in the coming weeks and already my first thoughts are on food and drink. Based on yesterday's performance, Scotland must now be a good bet for the Wooden Spoon as they may not have enough in the tank to avoid a last-match defeat in Rome if we are humped by France, England and Ireland in the meantime, which looks highly possible.

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