IT is the optimism that kills you. Until yesterday, most thought that only applied to those who pull on the dark blue and kick a round ball for a living. But in Cardiff, all the hopes, ambitions and dreams carried into the New Year from the Autumn Tests, were mashed into the ground by Wales.

After a torrid hour and a bit in the Principality Stadium, Scotland departed wondering exactly how things might get better ahead of France at Murrayfield a week today.

This was Gregor Townsend’s first Six Nations match and within 12 minutes, the honeymoon that had seen back-to-back wins against Australia as well as running the All Blacks close in Edinburgh seemed a long, long time ago.

Townsend is no novice. But yesterday he looked like the bewildered kid on his first day at big school against the guy who had done it all before, the hard way, Warren Gatland.

This was the man depicted as a clown in his native New Zealand last summer by his countrymen when he toured with the Lions, who only had one style of play, his famed – or infamous – “Warrenball”, and a coach who had to field a reserve starting XV because of all the injuries.

As night fell in Cardiff, Gatland would be thinking “job done”. The grand master had put the young apprentice in his place. But it wasn’t all Gatland’s doing.

For there were all too many telltale signs that the Welsh master plan, to nullify every possible attacking threat the Scots possessed, had been inked by a certain Shaun Edwards, the Welsh assistant coach and their defensive guru.

For want of a better description, Edwards did a number on the Scots; everything that had made Townsend’s team so great to watch, and let’s be honest, made them one of the favourites for this championship, was quashed and nullified by the defensive guile of Edwards. The thing was, it wasn’t even that complicated.

In essence, it was to concede the Scots as much ball and territory as they wanted, while safeguarding against being turned and, above all else, never letting that thin red gain line be breached. Indeed, Scotland didn’t even get a chance to put penalty points on the board so expert was Welsh discipline.

Once basic errors from the Scots were added into the mix, as well as an opportunistic interception try and a great finish from Leigh Halfpenny, it was virtually job done. The more desperate the Scots became, the more mistakes they made.

Having marvelled at the pace and intensity that Townsend extracted from his team in November, yesterday was an object lesson in what happens when the accuracy breaks down, when the passes don’t stick, and, when frustration sets in.

The match-winners and game-changers, so thrilling previously during Townsend’s tenure, looked ordinary. Ali Price looked flat, while Finn Russell looked casual, almost expecting the genius to kick in. It didn’t. Huw Jones had a better game when the Scots were crushed at Twickenham last year. It was that bad.

As for the rest of the back division, they had all had better days, particularly Stuart Hogg. He is a match-winner, but he had to go looking for the ball yesterday and, too often, found himself herded in to a cul-de-sac by a diligent home defence. And the harder he tried – and he did try – to make things work, the more they broke down.

Scotland played into the hands of the opposition – and the trap Edwards had set. Whoever has a similar remit within the French camp would do well to digest the DVD of this game.

But where does Townsend go? And who will go? Price, Tommy Seymour, Chris Harris and Byron McGuigan may do well to survive. Up front, some might get a second chance because there is no-one else, but when the pack is shuffled, Cornell du Preez may find himself decked.

France will be a test for the players, and Townsend. One down, four to go – but the one that’s gone means all that is left this season is pride. Again.