Finn Russell stars as Scotland turn on the style to hammer Wales
Finn Russell ran the show as Scotland blitzed Wales 35-7 at BT Murrayfield to kick off a Guinness Six Nations campaign with back-to-back victories for the first time.
The Racing 92 stand-off was at his magnificent best as he laid three of his side’s five tries on a plate for his team-mates and was also heavily involved in another.
Wales, who had won on six of their previous seven visits to Edinburgh, made things tough for Gregor Townsend’s team in the first half, but it was one-way traffic after the break as the hosts notched 22 points without reply to back up their Calcutta Cup victory in style and claim the Doddie Weir Cup.
Scotland got the first points on the board in the ninth minute when Russell kicked a penalty from in front of the posts after Wales were penalised for offside during a brilliant attack by the hosts – led by a Huw Jones line-break – that threatened to bring a try.
The Scots were dealt a blow in the 13th minute when Stuart Hogg went off with blood in his mouth and was replaced by Blair Kinghorn. The Exeter full-back’s injury was subsequently deemed serious enough to prevent him returning to the fray.
Two minutes later, Russell added another penalty from just outside the 22 after Wales were penalised for not releasing.
The visitors had an opportunity to reduce their deficit in the 25th minute when they won a penalty in a central position just under 40 metres out, but Dan Biggar hooked his kick left of the posts.
Scotland looked all set to notch their first try of the afternoon on the half hour but Kyle Steyn, darting clear on the right, was denied by a sensational tackle from Rio Dyer just in front of the line.
The hosts were not to be denied, however, and in the next phase of play George Turner wriggled his way free of a tackle to touch down following a lineout drive on the left.
There was initial doubt about whether the Glasgow hooker had grounded the ball but the celebrations were allowed to ensue following a TMO review. Russell duly added the extras.
Turner’s joy was short-lived as he found himself in the sin-bin within two minutes of scoring his try following a high tackle on George North.
Wales almost immediately made the extra man count as captain Ken Owens touched down following a maul in the 35th minute, with Biggar successfully kicking the conversion.
Warren Gatland’s men enjoyed a strong finish to the half and they should have had another try in the last action before the break, only for Dyer to drop the ball just in front of the line as he tried to run on to a pass from Biggar.
It would prove a pivotal moment as the Scots – with their full quota of 15 back on the pitch – stretched their advantage in the 52nd minute when Steyn was left with an easy touchdown on the right after brilliant play by Russell to set him up. Russell added the extras to put Scotland 20-7 ahead.
Five minutes later, the Welsh suffered a further blow when Liam Williams was yellow-carded for going off his feet. Within seconds, Steyn bounded over on the right for a second time when he was picked out by a magnificent cross-field kick from Russell. This time the mercurial number 10 hooked his kick wide of the posts.
Scotland were firmly in the ascendancy and Russell was heavily involved again in their fourth try of the afternoon in the 71st minute as he kicked the ball out to Duhan van der Merwe on the left and the Edinburgh winger teed up clubmate Kinghorn to burst through the Welsh defence. Russell missed his conversion.
The stand-off was not finished and he produced another stunning assist in the 79th minute when his looping pass out to the left sent Matt Fagerson free to score.
Russell was again unsuccessful with his conversion attempt but he had already inflicted more than enough damage on the Welsh, who crashed to a second successive heavy Six Nations defeat.
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