SCOTLAND only had pride left to play for in this year’s Six Nations and a makeshift unit just about found some in the second half here. But having racked up a hat-trick of home wins the last time they had three matches at Murrayfield back in 2017, it will be a somewhat hollow emotion this morning considering the chances they threw away to call themselves Grand Slam dragon slayers.

That is 13 wins on the spin now for the Welsh, who have also now won 12 of their last 13 against the Scots. But other than French referee Pascal Guezere’s reluctance to look the yellow card out of his pocket against persistent Welsh penalties in that second period, misfortune can’t be said to have much to do with it. While Gregor Townsend and his team travel to Twickenham seeking salvation, only Ireland stand between Warren Gatland’s men and Grand Slam number 12. It is a far cry from those breezy pre-tournament hopes of a first Scottish title since it went to six teams.

What plus points there were here were on the periphery. Darcy Graham capped his first start for his country with a fine first try; Hamish Watson was back to his ball carrying best as he bounced off tackles upon his Six Nations return after his lengthy injury lay-off. But frustration was the dominant emotion as the Scots signed off from home duty in another agonising defeat, having declined numerous distinctly kickable opportunities to hurl themselves off a red wall of defence in brave, yet ultimately futile manner.

While Townsend is without a raft of first teamers but he could at least welcome back talisman Finn Russell back after concussion. He was paired with his old Glasgow flatmate Ali Price, whose burst and quick, accurate delivery theoretically could be relied upon to give him more space. Welsh preparations were complicated by news of a merger between Ospreys and Scarlets, but the wily Gatland could name an unchanged starting XV from the team which vanquished England, even if that meant keeping Dan Biggar in reserve.

The sun came out as kick-off approached and this was a bright enough start from Scotland. The hosts had an early lead when Russell slotted an early penalty after an offside at a line-out from Welsh backrow Josh Navidi but the backlash wasn’t long in coming in an opening period where the intensity could be counted on the casualty count.

In the end Scotland simply ran out of time. But for a while it seemed they were going to run out of players. Jamie Ritchie trotted off with a blood injury, his replacement Watson also forced to leave the fray within minutes to be assessed for a head injury. Wing Tommy Seymour left the fray – to be replaced by Byron McGuigan - as did full back Blair Kinghorn – with Adam Hastings deputising.

Things might have been different if Scotland had been able to hold onto their lead but instead it was gone in 60 seconds, Kinghorn blotting his copybook as winger Josh Adams ghosted past him as if he wasn’t there for Wales’ first try of the game.

If the pace, bulk, strength and efficiency of the Welsh runners was generally too much to handle, Scotland seemed to get their greatest joy through scurrying flyweights such as Graham and Price. One great burst from Graham saw him eventually scruffed down 10 yards out, but the Scots couldn’t recycle the ball quick enough and had to settle for a second Russell penalty.

But for the rest of the half this was a sea of red and an increasingly thin, depleted blue line trying to keep them out. Scotland’s midfield defence had no answer when first Hadleigh Parkes then his fellow centre Jonathan Davies plunged over from close range. The match might have been done by the interval had Anscombe not struck a post with a penalty or replacement full back Adam Hastings and friends not been able to defy to breaks from the flying Adams on that left wing.

Perhaps aware that Scotland had been beaten up in that first half, Ritchie grabbed Adams by the scruff of the neck as the second half began. Next prop Allan Dell threw an outrageous dummy on a 30 yard carry, his bull rush forcing Liam Williams into a tackle which caused him to leave the fray nursing his right arm. The Scots were fighting fire with fire now.

A high tackle from Hadleigh Parkes on the shaven-headed Nick Grigg set up a succession of line-outs at the corner. Grant Gilchrist, in that familiar red skull cap, plunged over the line but found himself held up. The attack eventually coming to nothing in the face of some flinty Welsh defence and that was a theme of this second half.

Just when you thought the Scots had turned down the chance of penalties came a backline move of such beauty that even this Welsh team couldn’t deny it. From Grigg to Russell, then back to Hastings on the burst, suddenly it was in the arms of the quicksilver Graham, the Edinburgh man celebrating a memorable first try for his country.

Russell couldn’t land the conversion, and when Scotland spurned numerous pots at goal the amount of points which had gone a-begging could have been counted in double figures. Watson in particular added impetus from the bench but so makeshift were Scotland’s efforts by the end that their last chance came and went when Price, playing left wing, tackled Anscombe when he might have claimed the ball instead. It was another of those days for Scotland, whose misery was merely compounded when Anscombe slotted a deciding penalty.