Six Nations: Wales v Scotland history: key Cardiff triumphs and traumas down the decades

As Scotland bid to end a long wait for a win in the Welsh capital, we recall three of their greatest victories there - and three of their worst defeats

Scotland suffered a heavy defeat in Cardiff in Gregor Townsend's first Six Nations match back in 2018. Image:: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland suffered a heavy defeat in Cardiff in Gregor Townsend's first Six Nations match back in 2018. Image:: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND have suffered long barren runs at many away grounds, but right now their record in Cardiff stands out as particularly poor. True, they have won on Welsh soil as recently as 2020, but that was at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli, and behind closed doors because of the pandemic.

Their last win at what is now the Principality Stadium is as far back as 2002, and several of their defeats since then have been of the decidedly heavy variety. And lest it should be thought that failure to win in the Welsh capital is a relatively recent phenomenon, it is worth pointing out that Scotland have in fact only managed five victories there in the past 60 years.

However, one or two of them have gone down in history as landmark results for the national team, including the first on our list below of half a dozen victories and losses over the past 40 years or so.


Six Nations: Wales v Scotland: Finn Russell wary of tackling an unknown quantity

Six Nations: Wales v Scotland live … Finn Russell has his say on ‘roof-gate’

Six Nations: Wales v Scotland prediction: visitors to win by 15


20 March 1982 … TRIUMPH 

Wales 18 Scotland 34

For Scots of a certain generation, this remarkable result remains the greatest of all afternoons in the Welsh capital – not just because of the panache with which the visiting team played, but because of the unpropitious circumstances going into the game.

Scotland had not won in Cardiff for 20 years, while Wales had not been beaten at home in the Five Nations since 1968. So there was only going to be one outcome to this game, right? 

Wrong. Instead of the expected home win, the visitors ended that lengthy wait for a victory on Welsh soil in style, running in five tries. Jim Calder, Jim Pollock (on his debut), Jim Renwick, Derek White and David Johnston all touched down, Andy Irvine converted four of the five, and Renwick and John Rutherford rubbed salt into Welsh wounds with drop goals.

Calder’s try is the most memorable, because it was a real team effort: begun deep inside his own half by Roger Baird, it involved a couple of smart offloads by Iain Paxton and Alan Tomes before being finished off by the Stewart’s-Melville flanker. The other tries may have been more straightforward, but that was all that was required against a Welsh team who had taken the lead but then looked drained of self-belief.

Indeed, it was only thanks to a late and futile flourish which saw their tally double – Eddie Butler touched down and Gwyn Evans added a conversion and penalty to his three previous awards – that Wales were able to impart a modicum of respectability to the final score.

 

3 March 1990 … TRIUMPH

Wales 9 Scotland 13

Six years earlier, Scotland had begun their Five Nations campaign with a win in Wales and then gone on to win a Grand Slam. This time round they had already beaten Ireland and France, so they went to Cardiff in search of the win that would set up a Grand Slam decider against England at Murrayfield. 

The emphasis among supporters and media alike in the fortnight leading up to the game was on the need not to get too far ahead of ourselves. “No Calcutta until the Dragons are bearded in their den”, as one newspaper put it the Sunday before the game.

In the end, Scotland did get the win they needed, but they had to dig deep in defence late in the game to hold on to their narrow lead. A Damian Cronin try opened the scoring, and two penalties from Craig Chalmers helped the visitors to a 10-3 half-time lead. Wales hit back after the break to close to 10-9 down, but Chalmers added a third penalty and the defence did the rest.

Although far from a classic in its own right, the game retains its importance as the team’s penultimate step towards their third Grand Slam, and an encounter in which they proved themselves capable of bearing the growing burden of expectation as that date with destiny loomed.   

 

6 April 2002 … TRIUMPH

Wales 22 Scotland 27

Having lost three of their four previous games in that season’s Six Nations, including a 29-3 home loss to England and a 43-22 defeat by Ireland in Dublin, Scotland headed to Cardiff with little to play for but pride. Yet they ended their campaign on a high note with a narrow win – the last time to date that they have won in the Welsh capital.

In a sense, this game was more the sequel to the teams’ 28-28 draw at Murrayfield a year earlier than it was to the foregoing four rounds of the Championship. Scotland had fought back from 19 points down to claim a share of the spoils in 2001, ending that encounter with the distinct impression that they were the more able team. And they appeared to take that self-confidence into the return fixture – especially up front, where Scott Murray was the dominant figure.

Wales established an early 9-0 lead, but two tries from Gordon Bulloch helped Scotland into a lead at the break. The Welsh were back in front late in the second half, but a fourth successful penalty from Brendan Laney – who had converted one of the Bulloch tries – and another three-pointer from Duncan Hodge helped the Scots end with their noses in front.

 

13 February 2010 … TRAUMA

Wales 31 Scotland 24

Scotland were at their most inventive in this match – that is, at least when it came to conjuring up new ways to lose from a winning position. Granted, they were badly hit by injuries: Thom Evans needed lengthy on-field treatment on a neck injury which was later revealed to have been life-threatening, and Chris Paterson’s 100th cap was cut short by kidney damage which required hospital treatment. 

Even so, at 21-9 and 24-14 up, they had chances to shut the game down. And even after Wales closed to 24-24, the visitors could have kicked the ball dead and settled for the draw. Instead – and despite having had Scott Lawson and Phil Godman sin-binned – they kept the ball alive. Wales scored again to complete what from their perspective was a famous victory but from Scotland’s point of view was a wholly avoidable defeat.

John Barclay and Max Evans were the Scots’ try-scorers, while the other points came from Paterson with a conversion and Dan Parks with two drop goals and two penalties.

 

15 March 2014 … TRAUMA

Wales 51 Scotland 3

Scotland had won in Rome by a point but lost their other three Championship games in the build-up to this match, including a deeply dismal 20-0 home defeat by England. Wales had won two and lost two in an unspectacular campaign, but ended up by running riot and racking up a record winning margin for the fixture.

Greig Laidlaw opened the scoring, and in retrospect Scotland must have wished the game had ended there and then, because it was all downhill for the rest of the afternoon. Midway through the first half, with Wales already 10-3 up, Stuart Hogg was sent off for a late shoulder charge on Dan Biggar. It is a moot point whether the visitors would have found the strength to fight back if they had kept 15 men on the pitch, but as it was they collapsed pretty abjectly.

Interim coach Scott Johnson was in charge of the visitors for the last time before Vern Cotter took over. Johnson had already been named as director of rugby the previous year, and, to the bewilderment of many, remained in post until 2019.

 

3 February 2018 … TRAUMA

Wales 34 Scotland 7

Every Six Nations begins with a certain amount of hope as far as the Scotland support are concerned. Some years that optimism dies pretty quickly, and 2018 was one of those years as Gregor Townsend’s team kicked off their campaign with an unexpectedly heavy defeat.

Scotland went into the Championship in apparently fine fettle. They had beaten Wales a year earlier for the first time in a decade, and had also performed well later in 2021, just losing out to the All Blacks before putting 53 points on a shellshocked Australia.

But they themselves were shellshocked at the Millennium Stadium when Gareth Davies opened the scoring with an interception try, setting the tone for a long and agonising afternoon for the away team. Leigh Halfpenny scored two tries and Steff Evans also touched down, and Halfpenny scored the rest of the points as the home team cruised to a 34-0 lead. 

Pete Horne’s try two minutes from time, converted by Finn Russell, could not even be regarded as a consolation.


Six Nations: Wales v Scotland live … Finn Russell has his say on ‘roof-gate’

About Stuart Bathgate 1363 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.