CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — A depleted Wales brought an overhyped Scotland back to earth in the Six Nations by doing what it usually does to the Scots in Cardiff — beating them.
The only surprise was the scoreline, a whopping 34-7 with a four-tries bonus point on Saturday.
Valid expectations of a tight contest - Wales without eight Lions, more than 500 caps, and Scotland willing to give it a lash - were ripped up in the first minutes as Wales started fast with two tries to zoom to 14-0.
Scotland settled and drew the majority of possession but kept dropping passes or conceding penalties and didn't stress the Wales defense until the very end.
Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who hadn't scored a test try in five years, scored two for the first time since the same fixture in 2012. He collected 24 points, becoming the third Welshman after Neil Jenkins and Stephen Jones to pass 700 in tests.
After bombing at least three other tries, Wales bagged a bonus-point fourth with a Steff Evans dive and one-hand touchdown in the left corner. Hadleigh Parkes' set-up pass was forward and missed by the officials, but it began from yet another turnover and Scotland, which hasn't won in Cardiff in 16 years, couldn't complain about the margin of defeat.
Warren Gatland, on the 10th anniversary of his first match as Wales coach, wasn't surprised at all.
"The players coming in all believed in their own ability and they think they're better than the players not involved," he said. "We went in the game expecting to win reasonably comfortably."
He expects two of his injured Lions - George North and Liam Williams - back next week for England at Twickenham, a much harder assignment.
Scotland was being blanked until the second-to-last minute, when replacement center Peter Horne crossed. But the Scots, who have grown tougher at home, still can't get over a woeful record away from Murrayfield: This was their 16th loss in their last 18 away matches in the championship.
"We should be criticized for this performance," coach Gregor Townsend said. "We were badly beaten and it was a defeat, but there weren't many away wins in the championship last year (three) and now we need to bounce back."
Scotland's charity began in the sixth minute, when scrumhalf Ali Price miss-passed straight to Wales counterpart Gareth Davies, who took the intercept 60 meters untouched to the try-line.
Then flanker Aaron Shingler blew through a huge gap, and captain Alun Wyn Jones was galloping to the line. But his offload wasn't as good as his forwards' support. No matter, Wales was still on attack, and Halfpenny expertly finished a two-on-one.
Scotland dominated the near half-hour to halftime but lapsed into error after error: Dropped passes, knock ons, a penalty kick not finding touch, crooked throw-ins, and the backs shuffling sideways to be easily contained by Wales.
"We had tempo but not accuracy," Scotland captain John Barclay said.
The interval did not provide a fresh start. Barclay was penalized twice for hands in the ruck, and his Scarlets clubmate Halfpenny kicked both through the uprights for 20-0.
Unlike Scotland, Wales wings Evans and new cap Josh Adams were making big yards on the outsides. A driven lineout, pick-and-gos, and Halfpenny had a second try, and made a third conversion from the sideline.
It wasn't the Halfpenny show, but he reminded of his importance after being put in the shade by his Scotland counterpart Stuart Hogg, the player of the tournament in the last two years but who was hardly sighted in this match.
Wales kept threatening: Replacement prop Wyn Jones was held up by Scotland's Huw Jones, and replacement flyhalf Gareth Anscombe dropped a try-scoring pass from Alun Wyn Jones.
By then, the match was about only how big the margin was going to be for Wales' 50th win in the expanded Six Nations, and 50th win under Gatland.