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Analysis: More Six Nations heartache for much-improved Scotland

Heroic Scots downed in Cardiff

Scotland are without a Six Nations win in almost two years.
SNS Group

Despite a much improved performance, Scotland suffered another heartbreaking loss in Cardiff as Warren Gatland's Wales got back to winning ways after their Dublin draw last weekend, writes Finlay Morrison.

The defeat leaves Scotland without a Six Nations win in almost two years.

Cardiff misery

Vern Cotter's side arrived in the Welsh capital as heavy underdogs and few pundits gave them any chance of claiming their first win in Wales since 2002, but when the dust settles and the post-match reviews are held, Scotland's management will be privately fuming that they let this one get away.

Having led 13-16 going into the final third, Scotland needed a spark to extend their lead but instead it was Wales who were invigorated by man of the match Jamie Roberts' powerful burst over the line which any defence in the world would have struggled to stop.

With confidence soaring and the crowd behind them, Wales edged further ahead through winger George North who evaded four Scot's tacklers to touch down for the match-winning score.

Scotland did manage to rally near the end and scored a second try of their own through Duncan Taylor which narrowed the gap but sadly, it wasn't to be.

Laidlaw dejected

Greg Laidlaw
SNS Group

"It doesn't get any easier", sighed captain Laidlaw at full-time, reflecting on their ninth Six Nations defeat in a row.

"We just gave them the game in the end after being in such a good position", the skipper went on. "Wales were better on the day but we need to improve our lineout", he continued, referring to his side's poor set piece performance. "We're so close, but I cant keep saying this," the scrum half added.

Promising signs

Principality Stadium
SNS Group

The signs were there early on in Cardiff that this could have been the turning point for Scottish rugby, and there was certainly enough to take from today's loss to at least get one win from their next two matches against Italy and France.

The more optimistic of Scotland fans would point out that the fixture list hasn't been kind to Vern Cotter's side, having met two of the tournament favourites first up.

One that got away

Gareth Davies' controversial try in the seventh minute set the tone for what was a frantic match, but television replays seem to suggest the ball came off centre Roberts' hand first.

To their credit, Scotland didn't lie down and turned things around six minutes later when Finn Russell's deft chip over the Welsh defence found Tommy Seymour in acres of space to level the scores.

Just as Scotland were beginning to look confident however, they lost influential fullback Stuart Hogg after 20 minutes due to a back spasm. The Glasgow Warriors star had already made 50 odd metres by the time of his departure, and although he was replaced by the capable Ruaridh Jackson, Scotland's attacking spark was severely hampered.

Laidlaw's boot edged Scotland ahead after half an hour and although Dan Biggar levelled things up with five minutes to play in the half, the home side were penalised again by referee George Clancy and Laidlaw edged the visitors ahead at the break.

Half-time edge

Scotland should have identified that Wales seemingly had a lack of a plan B whilst enjoying their half-time oranges, and the message looked to have been "kick the ball behind their tiring back three" as they emerged for the second half and began well.

Vern Cotter may also face questions as to why he waited so long to introduce the likes of Stuart McInally, Blair Cowan and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne to the fray, especially when Wales stretched their lead after North's try.

Had these key personnel been introduced earlier, it is not unlikely that the gap may have been closer, allowing the Scots the opportunity to score a winning try as Wales' key men were also out on their feet by this stage.

Cotter desperate for win

Another Six Nations weekend however, and another defeat for Vern Cotter who admitted "It's never easy to lose and we don't like losing" afterwards.

"There's things we can take from this match and our attitude was much better (than last week) and we're desperate to win our next match", the Kiwi coach, who is still searching for his maiden Six Nations victory, confirmed.

When in Rome

That next match comes in Rome in a fortnight's time against a resurgent Italy and is now an absolute must-win for Scotland who have yet to face Grand Slam-chasing France and winless Ireland.

Another defeat would completely eradicate any of the optimism which was built up during the World cup last Autumn and would mean Scotland would have been two years without a win in the competition.

There was however, enough evidence in the second and third quarter of the match to confirm that this young Scotland side simply need any sort of win to set them on their way.

It'll be a long two weeks for Cotter and his beleaguered squad but a win in Rome could be the catalyst for a strong finish to this years championship.

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