Plenty of power, penalties and yawns
IT was a day when polar bears might have complained about the cold had they strolled into Murrayfield — and quite possibly they wouldn't have been too happy with the quality of the entertainment, either.
The match had been built up in some quarters as a potential classic that might evoke memories of vintage Scotland-Wales clashes of yesteryear.
Well, after the hype came the hypothermia, or pretty close to it for some players and supporters, as a grim attritional battle was fought out in conditions that were simply chilling, with an icy wind howling through the home of Scottish rugby.
Look up the word 'fun' in the dictionary. This was the very opposite of the definition you will be presented with.
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There was a Test rugby world record for anoraks to get excited about.
But the rest of those watching probably would have just yawned at having to witness the most penalty attempts in a single international match.
When Leigh Halfpenny and Greig Laidlaw had finished their battle of the boots, they had fired at the posts 18 times from penalty situations.
Throw in a conversion attempt from Halfpenny and the probability is around 20 minutes were spent on goalkicking: quarter of a match watching two people hoofing a ball at a set of posts.
As entertainment goes, it was like staring into a bowl of porridge.
It was hardly the fault of the two kickers, who showed huge skill in getting to grips with the swirling wind.
But rugby in the northern hemisphere needs to start upping its game in terms of providing an attractive product for spectators and TV audiences.
Wales have been involved in three paint dryers over the past month, against France, Italy and Scotland, while England and Ireland played out a drab encounter in Dublin, and Scotland and Ireland were involved in a mind-numbing date in Edinburgh.
No-one is asking for the Barbarians-New Zealand 1973 clash to be reprised every Saturday. But it surely isn't asking too much for sides to try to work out inventive attacking strategies that test opposition defences.
Instead, all we are seeing is a power-based game that is about as subtle as a whack across the head with a shovel.
It isn't as if there is no other way.
In the southern hemisphere the Super Rugby competition is played out every weekend with pace and skill levels that make the northern game look pedestrian. There are offloads, sharp handling, skilful running. Defences are not allowed to have things all their own way. Attack coaches seem to have thought long and hard about how to gain the upper hand.
Admittedly, the weather tends to be better in the south, but maybe that's an argument for rearranging the season and shifting the Six Nations to April and May, when conditions in these parts tend to be better.
Not that Rob Howley will be thinking about such matters as he ponders how to see off England this weekend.
He has made Wales hard to beat again — no mean feat after their run of eight consecutive losses.
While they are not serving up champagne rugby, or even Asti Spumante rugby for that matter, it is hard not to admire the excellence of their forward play and solidity of their defence.
They set out their stall in the early minutes with a series of punishing drives up the middle that took them deep into the heart of Scottish territory.
It set the tone for much of the game, with Ryan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Alun Wyn Jones and Toby Faletau repeatedly charging forward, sapping the strength of their opponents.
Wales's tackling was also something to applaud.
One hundred and two hits were put in all told, with just three missed, giving defence coach Shaun Edwards a 97 per cent tackle completion rate to purr over. That isn't just good; it's outstanding.
They weren't just knocking over blue-shirted players, either.
They were also hungry for turnovers, with Sam Warburton to the fore.
Deposed as captain and left out of the side for the game against Italy, the Blues player needed a big game to reassert his Lions credentials.
And he delivered emphatically, not just leading the way in defence, with 13 tackles, but also pilfering opposition ball at the breakdown. He made at least three turnovers, and provided one of the game's few memorable moments when he drove back Stuart Hogg, rose to his feet and robbed him of possession before the Scot had realised what was going on. Dusting himself down, Hogg must have felt he had been the victim of a mugging.
One game shouldn't count for much, but suddenly the world looks a brighter place for Warburton.
He will now find himself touted again as the Lions Test No. 7 this summer — and, depending on Ryan Jones's fitness, he could even reclaim the Wales captaincy for the game with England.
Howley would have spent Saturday night fretting over Jones's shoulder injury.
That said, when Justin Tipuric came on for Jones in the final quarter at Murrayfield, he and Warburton gave a masterclass of skills at the breakdown, working superbly together. The Scots could have been forgiven for thinking Wales had half-a-dozen back-row forwards on the field.
Other Welsh forwards who did their Lions prospects no harm included Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Jones and Hibbard.
Alun Wyn Jones produced one of his finest displays in a red jersey — notwithstanding him later describing it as just "all right" — one which saw him put in ten tackles and make ten ball carries, while also skilfully holding sway in the line-out.
Adam Jones followed up his big display in Rome with another immense effort. No Lions-qualified tight-head has this term hit the heights Jones has reached in recent weeks. He is rock-solid in the scrum but also working harder than ever around the field.
Hibbard had a few problems with his line-out radar, but he took the ball forward impressively and crowned a strong showing with his first try in international rugby.
Sadly, this game will be more remembered for the shrill sound of referee Craig Joubert's whistle, especially at scrum-time, with both sides being penalised, often questionably.
The game was ruined, and rugby's lawmakers need to urgently consider changes to the set-piece if the game is to not to take to its sick bed as a spectator sport.
But in a game with penalties being awarded at every turn, a side can do a lot worse than have Halfpenny in their team. His effort was especially admirable because he managed to finish with 23 points despite being whistled and jeered by possibly the most unsporting crowd in Six Nations history.
The Gorseinon man also comprehensively won his full-back duel with Hogg.
Halfpenny looked secure throughout and when he outjumped his Scottish rival early in the game, it could have been the Lions No. 15 shirt he claimed as opposed to the ball.
The win was Wales's fifth in a row on the road in the Six Nations. Travelling has never seemed less complicated.
If they hadn't started this championship with all the alacrity of a tortoise on a slow day, they would be playing England for the Grand Slam on Saturday.
They are not lighting up the sky but they are getting the job done.
If England are to get the prize they crave, they are going to have do it the hard way, against a side who haven't conceded a try in almost five hours of rugby. It is blue-collar rugby from Howley's side, relying more on perspiration than inspiration.
But it isn't easy to counter. Ask France, Italy and Scotland.