Wales vs. Scotland: Score and Lessons Learned from Six Nations Clash
On this Six Nations Saturday, Wales vs. Scotland always had the least riding on its result, but the nothing-to-lose nature of their clash still made for an entertaining way to round off the tournament.
In the end, Wales ran out as 51-3 victors. More than a little help was thrown in Wales' favour by the blundering red card shown to Stuart Hogg, who was fully deserving of his punishment.
Both Wales and Scotland have lessons to take away from the result, although the former's are unsurprisingly more positive than the latter's, for the most part.
1. Liam Williams Can Ease Halfpenny's Absence
Welsh fans can only see Leigh Halfpenny's shoulder-dislocation injury as a negative, but it doesn't have to spell the end of the world or Wales' hopes of rugby success this summer.
Liam Williams was at hand to fill in at full-back on Saturday, and the Llanelli Scarlet impressed to the fullest, earning Man of the Match plaudits for his contributions at the Millennium Stadium.
His efforts included the game's opening try, 82 carrying metres and the setup of a superb, length-of-the-pitch Jamie Roberts score. He also didn't miss a tackle.
It's too early to say that Williams will be giving Halfpenny competition for the No. 15 jersey when he's fit again, but it wasn't a bad start for the speedster at all.
2. Jerome Garces Shows Rugby's Refereeing Advantages
After the referee gave Stuart Hogg a yellow card for his late shoulder hit on Dan Biggar, Scotland were down but certainly not out of the game in Cardiff.
However, just seconds after seeing the replay on the big screens of the Millennium Stadium, the French official dished out the true justice. In the process, he displayed exactly why the swift refereeing cycle of rugby is a thing to be admired at times.
Garces was quick and to the point and took matters into his own hands with an initiative that not every sport can boast.
3. Warren Gatland's Injury Woes Are Never-Ending
As if the news of Halfpenny's absence wasn't enough, it's now emerged that a dislocated shoulder is behind Sam Warburton's injury, which he picked up right at the end of Saturday's meeting.
It's another bitter pill to swallow for Gatland, who has already had to put up with the absences of Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Ashley Beck, Alun Wyn Jones and others recently.
In a way, it's slightly fortunate that the injury has happened now, with experimentation bound to be one of the key factors for the summer tour to South Africa.
That being said, the injury is nonetheless disappointing for the squad and Warburton, who will sit alongside Halfpenny for his rehabilitation.
4. It's Time for Scott Johnson to Leave
Scott Johnson's final game in charge of the Scottish national team could have gone far better, and people will ultimately remember his tenure as something that could have been but never was.
Last year, when Scotland managed to finish third in the standings, the team had encouraging signs of positive, attacking rugby. Somewhere along the way, bad post-match jokes and an approach that was too laid-back for some replaced that progress.
The Australian now moves on so that Clermont Auvergne coach Vern Cotter can take his place at the helm. Although Johnson did well to bring some younger players through the Scottish system, Cotter perhaps promises to advance the team more quickly.
5. Wales Look Slicker with Dan Biggar at No. 10
Wales probably should have addressed the debate prior to the competition's beginning, but Biggar may have been better off than Rhys Priestland as the starting fly-half after all.
Though it wouldn't be fair to judge the comparison on this game alone, the Osprey was impressive from start to end in his first start of the 2014 tournament, assisting the opening try and kicking well from both tee and out of hand.
Priestland faced some tough tests against the likes of England, Ireland and France, but moving forward, Biggar and Cardiff Blues' Rhys Patchell maybe begin to get more of a look at the starting jersey.