WALES head coach Warren Gatland hailed the maturity of his side after seeing them take a second step on the road to a potential RBS 6 Nations Triple Crown with a 27-13 victory over Scotland at the Millennium Stadium.
The sides had been level at 3-3 after a scrappy first half but Wales clicked into gear early in the second period to kill off a Scotland side who again paid for a lack of composure.
Scrum-half Chris Cusiter’s failure to gather Rhys Priestland’s second-half kick-off sparked Scotland’s implosion as it laid the platform for wing Alex Cuthbert to score the opening try, converted by Leigh Halfpenny.
Full-back Halfpenny, who ended the game with 22 points, then added his second penalty and two converted tries to punish Scottish ill-discipline as Nick De Luca and Rory Lamont saw yellow, effectively killing the game off with the score at 27-6 after three Welsh tries in 14 minutes.
Wales managed the victory despite having captain Sam Warburton ruled out before kick-off with the dead leg he suffered in Dublin last week, and lock Bradley Davies suspended following his tip tackle in the same game.
And it was his side’s ability to deal with those obstacles that pleased Gatland most.
He said: “We expected Scotland to be a lot tougher than maybe the public did.
“If you look at their numbers last week in terms of territory, possession and line breaks, they should have won that game against England.
“So we are very pleased with the result given the disruption of losing Sam Warburton, and having to adjust to the loss of Bradley Davies during the week, as well as being without three or four key players.
“That is a sign of the maturity of this team at the moment. They can handle these disruptions and it doesn’t seem to affect them psychologically, they just go out and play the game so there are some very pleasing aspects on and off the field with this team at the moment.”
But Gatland did not feel the period when Scotland had been down to 14 and 13 men had been the difference between the sides.
“I felt we were playing well anyway regardless of whether it was 14 men, or 13 at one point. We upped the tempo, scored three tries,” he said.
“I think Leigh Halfpenny is probably not happy with a couple of centres as there were a couple of occasions where if they had passed him the ball they would have put him in space and he would have scored.”
Wales also picked up injury problems during the game as wing George North and hooker Huw Bennett were forced off with ankle and calf problems respectively.