Townsend relieved as Scotland hold out to end Cardiff losing streak

Gregor Townsend played 82 times for Scotland before retiring from Test rugby in 2003 (Adrian DENNIS)
Gregor Townsend played 82 times for Scotland before retiring from Test rugby in 2003 (Adrian DENNIS)

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend was a relieved man on Saturday after his side's hopes of a first win in Cardiff in 22 years were almost scuppered by another dramatic slump in the Welsh capital.

The visitors edged Wales 27-26 in their Six Nations opener on Saturday but only after almost squandering a 27-0 lead.

Townsend's men were in command after 45 minutes following two tries by winger Duhan van der Merwe and one from prop Pierre Schoeman, with the remainder of their points coming from the boot of captain Finn Russell.

But Wales hit back in style with tries from back-rower James Botham, winger Rio Dyer, impressive No 8 Aaron Wainwright and replacement flanker Alex Mann.

For Townsend, the match was starting to become all too reminiscent of a game when he was assistant boss to Andy Robinson 14 years ago, as Wales scored 17 points in the final few minutes to transform a 14-24 deficit in to a 31-24 victory.

"It was a bit like 2010 and it went into my thoughts as the second half went on," said Townsend after Scotland had ended a run of 11 straight defeats in Cardiff dating back to 2002.

"I remember the atmosphere that day when Wales had the momentum behind them and came back on the scoreboard.

"The same happened today, fortunately we stayed ahead and we were able to play well in the final five minutes.

"A lot of effort went into that last five minutes -- we should have scored a try and we felt there were a couple of penalties that could have gone our way in the last passage - but it was past 80 minutes and we got the win."

Second-half yellow cards for the Scotland duo of George Turner and Sione Tuipulotu helped turn the tide in Wales' favour.

"We were accurate and put Wales under pressure in the first half," said Townsend.

"Those two (first-half) tries were really good reward and to have that cushion should have made it a more comfortable second half."

- 'Throw in the towel' -

The former Scotland fly-half, whose team next play France at Murrayfield in a week's time, added: "The fact that it didn't is a concern for us, but a lot of that was due to the penalty count and the numerical advantage Wales had for 20 minutes."

Wales boss Warren Gatland, whose inexperienced side now travel to Twickenham to play England next Saturday, said: "Did we give Scotland too much respect in that first half?

"They were fully loaded and we're a young team. To do what we did, be 27-0 down, other teams might have shown less character and start thinking about next week, even throw in the towel.

"We didn't do that. They kept fighting and put themselves in a position to win. That showed real character and we've just got to play like we did in the second half.

"You can't coach experience. When you're out there in front of 75,000 people making that much noise and the pace is quicker than club rugby, sometimes that takes time for players to get used to."