The first 40 minutes of Sunday's RBS Six Nations Rugby in Millennium Stadium match went nearly as well as any Scottish fan could have hoped for. Nearly as well.
As the first half of extremely physical rugby drew to a close, Scotland and Wales appeared ready to enter the changing rooms knotted at 3-3. But a late surge by Scotland pushed the Welsh defense to the brink of the white line and offensive coach Gregor Townsend's much maligned attack seemed destined to earn a much needed try. But after 21 grueling phases and just a few feet away from the white line, Scotland prop Allan Jacobsen's costly knock- on kept the game tied.
Jacobsen's mistake was then compounded as Chris Cusiter failed to control the opening kick off and immediately put the Scottish side on the defensive. The talented Welsh side never looked back. In a 14-minute explosion, Wales scored three tries with Alex Cuthbert capitalizing on Cusiter's gaff and Leigh Halfpenny finishing the other two.
Scotland also played a portion of the second half with only 13 men as Nick de Luca and Rory Lamont were sent to the sin-bin for separate yellow card incidents.
The defeat is in many ways the latest disappointing installment for a Scottish side recently bumped from the world top 10 rankings after their loss to England last weekend. Missed opportunities and crucial mistakes have plagued Scotland of late, and Sunday's match was no exception.
Still, the game was not without positives for the Andy Robinson's team. Ross Rennie was marvelous throughout the contest and 6'10'' behemoth Richie Gray played an outstanding game. 19-year-old Stuart Hogg was also extremely impressive, as he earned his first cap and should have scored a try had a knock on him not been strictly called.
But moral victories are hardly satisfactory for a side looking to make a statement in the Six Nations. Much like in the England game, chances were there and the outcome could have been different even with the Welsh side's furious second half charge.
Andy Robinson and Co. now have two weeks to tend to their wounds and prepare for France at Murrayfield. If Scotland hopes to compete against a dominant French side, they will need to capitalize on their chances.