Scotland answered their doubters by finally winning back-to-back opening matches in the Six Nations for the first time as they demolished Wales at Murrayfield.
The dark blues had not gone unbeaten through two weeks of the championship since the old Five Nations in 1996 but they outclassed Warren Gatland’s men to make it a perfect start to 2023.
Finn Russell orchestrated a second half rout as Kyle Steyn grabbed two scores to delight the home crowd.
Scotland ticked the first points of the contest after Sione Tuipulotu released Huw Jones for a thrilling break into Welsh territory. Wales were whistled for an offside after Jones was brought down and Finn Russell added three from in front of the posts.
Russell made it 6-0 on 15 minutes after a ruck infringement as Scotland lost key man Stuart Hogg to injury – the full back was replaced by Blair Kinghorn.
The match descended into a bitty affair with both teams struggling to hold possession.
Scotland finally gained a foothold when an offside penalty allowed them to kick to the corner and on their second set maul from the lineout they managed to crash over the line through George Turner.
Russell added the extras from out wide to extend the lead to 13-0.
Wales gathered the restart and through the phases try-scorer Turner caught George North high and received a yellow card.
The visitors made their numerical advantage count when they muscled their own maul over the whitewash, captain Ken Owens touching down. Biggar’s conversion reduced the deficit to six points and the teams went in at half time 13-7.
Scotland got back to 15 men on the field two minutes after the break and managed to sustain pressure in the Welsh 22 that eventually led to their second try.
The red shirts were huge defence and it took a moment of magic from Russell as he flipped a pass out of contact to Kyle Steyn to score in the corner.
Russell nailed the kick to make it 20-7 after 52 minutes.
The referee ran out of patience with the Welsh infringements and yellow carded Liam Williams with 56 minutes in the clock and the Scots wasted no time in making it count.
From their rolling maul Russell sent a beautiful high cross-field kick up for Steyn to again dot down near the corner flag.
The wind was well out of Welsh sails now and the kick passing of Russell again opened the door as he chipped to Van der Merwe who offloaded for Kinghorn to scamper across for the bonus point try.
Russell missed the extras but Scotland were out of sight at 30-7.
There was time for another score – again assisted by Russell – as he floated a lovely ball wide for Matt Fagerson to score and round off an outstanding day for the men wearing the thistle.
Scotland Player Ratings
Stuart Hogg 5 – Made some good kicks for territory but was replaced hurt after less than a quarter of an hour.
Kyle Steyn 8 – Had Russell to thank for his two simple finishes but also made some big carries and was solid under the high ball.
Huw Jones 7 – Made a thrilling break to set the platform for the opening try and offered an outlet to get the ball from midfield to Van der Merwe.
Sione Tuipulotu 8 – Great link up but truly excelled in defence and he stood tall in the face of the red shirted runners.
Duhan van der Merwe 8 – A threat every time he gets the ball and made 102 metres with ball in hand to pin Wales back.
Finn Russell 9 – Some wonderful touches and kept Wales on their heels with some clever kicks. Underrated defender and showed some great line speed to disrupt Welsh passing.
Ben White 7 – Some slightly off target distribution but otherwise a solid outing.
Pierre Schoeman 7 – Scotland were under pressure at the scrum but he made several trademark big hits in the loose.
George Turner 7 – Blotted copybook with yellow card but solid in every department.
Zander Fagerson 7 – First game in two months showed in parts as he was not quite the rampaging force he can be but stood up well to the pressure from the visitors.
Richie Gray 8 – Totemic in the lineout and continued his outstanding form all round the field.
Grant Gilchrist 7 – Built a great partnership with Gray in the second row and gets through a huge power of work.
Jamie Ritchie 8 – Makes great decisions around his jackaling and leads from the front in defence.
Luke Crosbie 7 – Brought his physicality to the party while on the field.
Matt Fagerson 8 – Another mountain of contact work with 15 tackles and nine carries and a late try to put the icing on the cake.
Replacements 8 – Blair Kinghorn filled in seamlessly for Hogg and got his try with ten minutes to play. Jack Dempsey added heft to the back row. Front row replacements were on the front foot in the scrum.
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