Wales downed Scotland with a 28-18 Six Nations victory in a penalty-ridden goal-kicker's dream at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Wales downed Scotland with a 28-18 victory in a penalty-ridden goalkicker's dream at Murrayfield in the Six Nations.
A match dominated more by the whistle and boot than any real memorable moments of attacking flair, Scotland and Wales racked up a total of 28 penalties between them as both sides continued to displease referee Craig Joubert.
Leigh Halfpenny ended his afternoon with seven penalties to his name and missed three earlier in the first half, while Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw also reaped the rewards from persistent indiscipline with six penalties of his own.
Neither side was able to generate any sustained tempo due to an imposing performance from the Welsh scrum and countless idiotic penalties from Scotland, in a replica of their discipline against Ireland two weeks ago.
A promising start from Wales at the scrum lead to a simple penalty opportunity for Halfpenny, handing the visitors a 3-0 lead after four minutes.
Greig Laidlaw responded with a long-range penalty that snuck over the crossbar minutes later, before Scotland took the lead when Wales were caught offside outside their own 22.
Scotland's penalty count continued to rise but Halfpenny wasted two penalty chances to let the hosts off the hook. The full-back's fourth attempt ricocheted off the post.
George North's break down the right-hand side gave Wales excellent field position, and they capitalised with a try from Richard Hibbard, regaining the lead with Halfpenny converting.
Rare field position for Scotland yielded a penalty at the scrum to the hosts, Laidlaw going for goal from the limit of his range and sending it through the posts.
Sale lock Richie Gray was stretchered from the field after a lengthy stoppage in play, causing concern for is club side Sale and also the selectors of the British and Irish Lions.
Laidlaw continued to maintain his accuracy going for goal, putting Scotland ahead just before half-time with another 40 metre effort to put the hosts into the lead.
Wales though were handed an attacking scrum in Scotland's 22 after a knock-on from Sean Lamont at the restart, winning a penalty after Jim Hamilton infringed for Halfpenny to restore the Welsh lead in Edinburgh – 12-13 to the visitors at the interval.
Laidlaw fell short of the posts with his fifth penalty attempt at the start of the second half, his first miss of the afternoon as he struggled kicking into the wind from 46 metres out.
Halfpenny had no such problem from a much shorter distance after a Welsh attack, stretching the gap to four points before Laidlaw responded in the latest chapter of the Murrayfield kicking exhibition.
Wales were presented with a chance to produce some attacking rugby from a five metre lineout, but inevitably the ball was lost forward. Another penalty to the visitors from the scrum saw Ross Ford cautioned, with Halfpenny converting.
The full-back struck again with yet another penalty to stretch the Welsh lead to 22-15 nearing the 60 minute mark. The kicking pendulum inevitably swung back Scotland's way as Laidlaw then added three more points of his own.
Halfpenny added his fifth and sixth penalties of the afternoon to open up an 18-25 gap for Wales going into the final 10 minutes as their scrum continued to ruthlessly dominate the Scottish pack. Another penalty chance, another three points for Halfpenny.
Scotland threw everything at Wales late on as they attempted to claw their way back into the match, but there was to be no breakthrough against a revitalised Welsh defence. The title decider between Wales and England next weekend is very much on.
Man of the Match: Hounded by his critics in recent weeks, Sam Warburton's work ethic was exceptional throughout with 13 tackles to his name.
Moment of the Match: After missing three consecutive kicks, Leigh Halfpenny nailed a difficult touchline conversion after Richard Hibbard's try and never looked back.
Villain of the Match: Frustrating for supporters, the high penalty count ruined the game as a spectacle. Eyes on you Mr Joubert.
Pens: Laidlaw 6
Pens: Halfpenny 7
Yellow Card: James
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Robert Harley, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Max Evans.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ryan Jones (capt), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Scott Andrews, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Andrew Coombs, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Television match official: Giulio De Santis (Italy)