The Six Nations tables didn't so much turn, as spin full circle during 80 epic minutes in Edinburgh in a match which encompassed one red card, seven tries, and a remarkable comeback. Scotland, seeking their fifth successive win off the back of a once-in-a-generation victory at Twickenham, were once again undone by a Wales side which has struggled for form under Wayne Pivac.
For Wales, who came back from 17-3 down, Louis Rees-Zammit proved to be their saviour. He only turned 20 a fortnight ago yet he grabbed this game by the scruff of its neck, making one try and scoring two, including the late solo score which proved to be the winner. He was rightly made man of the match as he led his side to the top of the Six Nations table.
If control and discipline were key to Scotland's win at Twickenham, a loss of control and indiscipline did for Gregor Townsend's side in this see-sawing match. It would be uncharitable to Wales to suggest that this match was thrown away by Scotland, yet how else to characterise a contest in which Wales were a distant second best for 35 minutes and trailed by 14 points?
Scotland could in mitigation point to Zander Fagerson's harsh red card on 53 minutes as a turning point. The prop was dismissed by otherwise excellent referee Matt Carley for making direct contact with Wyn Jones' head at a ruck, even though the Welshman was moving, contact seemed highly debatable, and the TMO recommended a yellow card.
Yet afterwards both Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones and Scotland coach Gregor Townsend pointed out that there had already been a momentum shift before Fagerson's sending off. Wales were already fully resurgent by the time Fagerson was dismissed, with Rees-Zammit scoring their first try just before half-time and setting up Liam Williams for a well-worked score 10 minutes after the break.
Immediately after Fagerson's dismissal, the Welshmen marched downfield and scored when Wyn Jones muscled his way over through a melee of bodies, but it is a stretch to suggest that it was a score caused by Scotland being down to 14 men. It is, however, true that playing against a side as used to winning at Murrayfield and containing as many serial winners as Wales when down to 14 men was always going to be tough.
Even when dominating for long periods in the first half Scotland never attained the same levels of intensity or precision they displayed at Twickenham, and as the match went on they became increasingly error-prone. They certainly threw it around far more than at any stage against England, and if their options were less assured, so was their execution. Finn Russell's fitful kicking from hand early on gave Wales outs on several occasions, while even in the early exchanges it was clear that their discipline was way below last week's levels.
Even before Fagerson's aberration their propensity for getting on the wrong side of the referee had proved costly as they gave away three penalties in the first five minutes, the third of which led to Wales' first three points. Rees-Zammit's first try also stemmed directly from Scotland's indiscipline as they gave away three needless penalties in quick succession, taking them from pushing for a try in Wales' 22 to standing under their posts after the wing's try brought the visitors back into the match.
Along with not shutting up shop before half-time, Scotland decision not to take two easy penalties displayed a lack of pragmatism that suggests they are still a work in progress. On the credit side, they displayed a welcome attacking intent, with Stuart Hogg once again in compelling form. They also learned quickly: after Russell needlessly kicked away possession several times early on, they switched to deft dinked kicks into the space behind Wales' defensive line, a tactic which yielded their first two tries.
The first came midway through the first half when Ali Price put through a perfectly judged little chip from the ruck, Darcy Graham sprinting through to pick up and go over under the posts. The second came six minutes later when Hogg chased his hopeful kick into the Wales 22 only to get a helping hand from Leigh Halfpenny, who mistakenly knocked the ball towards his own try-line; the grateful Scot picking up and flopping over the line.
Yet after the break it was Wales who got all the lucky breaks, while Scotland seemed to have misplaced their four-leaf clover. A case in point was the home side's disallowed “try” when Gary Graham, who came on for Blade Thomson after 12 minutes but was later replaced himself after leaking a succession of penalties, only forced his way over thanks to crossing from Scott Cummings.
With 14-man Scotland trailing 17-20 heading into the final quarter, things looked bleak, yet they rallied and won a scrum in front of Wales' posts. When the ball was moved right, Hogg burst into the line, rounded Owen Watkin and smashed through Nick Tompkins to go over in the corner, Russell's touchline conversion gave Scotland a 24-20 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
But the lack of control Scotland had shown all match was to be their undoing. From possession in their own half, Wales moved the ball to Rees-Zammit on the wing. The youngster sped down the flank, outpaced the cover and chipped ahead before touching down to give Wales a remarkable one-point lead with 10 minutes to go. When Liam Williams smashed a kick 60 metres into touch to relieve Scotland's final all-out assault, it was all over.
Scores Halfpenny 0-3 pen; Russell 3-3 pen; Graham 8-3 try; Russell 10-3 con; Hogg 15-3 try; Russell 17-3 con; Rees-Zammit 17-8 try; L Williams 17-13 try; Sheedy 17-15 con; W Jones 17-20 try; Hogg 22-20 try; Russell 24-20 con; Rees-Zammit 24-25 try.
FULL TIME! Scotland 24 Wales 25
What a win for Wayne Pivac's side who fought back from 14 points down in the first half to squeak home in a thriller. Louis Rees-Zammit's second try was worthy of winning any game. Disappointing for Scotland who will wonder what might have been after Zander Fagerson's red card left them playing with 14 men for the last half-hour.
RED CARD! 54 mins: Scotland 17 Wales 15
Massive moment! After a long TMO check Zander Fagerson is sent off. He charged into the ruck and cleared out Wyn Jones without wrapping his arms. He was just trying to drive the Welshman off the ball but did connect with the head. Scotland down to 14 for the last half hour.
TRY! 38 mins: Scotland 17 Wales 8
Wales win the line-out and start to maul, winning a penalty advantage. They have a free shot and decide to move it wide - Tomkins shovels to Williams, who spreads further to Rees-Zammit. He has one man to beat and does so with ease, stepping inside and diving over. Lovely finish! Biggar misses the conversion.
33 mins: Scotland 17 Wales 3
Louis Rees-Zammit was the match-winner for Wales against Ireland last week. Sam Warburton has been waxing lyrical about the Gloucester wing's natural pace and the ease with which he has taken to international rugby. Here's what the man they call "Rees lightning" had to say when he spoke to Telegraph Sport last year.
Halaholo backed to make big impact
The Auckland-born centre was denied his debut by injury in 2019 but now he could make his first appearance from the bench after being picked ahead of Jamie Roberts. Ben Coles has chronicled Halaholo's rise through the ranks.
Was Scotland's dominant win at Twickenham a one-off? Or the launchpad for an improving side to make a tilt at the Six Nations title? Telegraph Sport takes an in-depth look at Gregor Townsend's squad here.
Scotland will be looking to back up their historic win at Twickenham last weekend with another strong showing against injury-ravaged Wales. Gregor Townsend's men would make more history with a win at Murrayfield this afternoon, as Scotland have never won their first two games since this tournament became the Six Nations.
The last time Scotland won their opening two games was in the 1996 Five Nations, when they were famously beaten by England at Murrayfield in their final fixture and denied a Grand Slam. If they do get another win today then talk of a Triple Crown and even a first Six Nations title will undoubtedly start hotting up.
But Townsend aimed to keep things low-key in the build-up to today's clash; outlining the importance - and the difficulty - of being able to string back-to-back performances together.
He said: "The growth has to be backing up big performances, being consistent, being tough to beat. If you look back over the last few years, that’s something we’ve not always done, but I think we’ve shown that we’re tough to beat. If we can get that consistency of performance, we can be a match for anybody in this championship.”
Over the past fortnight Wales have picked up eight injuries and had one player suspended for breaking their Covid-19 bubble, losing a quarter of the 36-man squad named by head coach Wayne Pivac last month.
They lost three blindside flankers – Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi and Macleod – within four days. George North’s 100th cap will have to wait, too, after an injury to his foot. There are five changes to today’s starting XV to face Scotland from the side who edged past 14-man Ireland last Sunday.
But they will still be able to start an experienced side, including the likes of Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau, Gareth Davies, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.
And the selection of uncapped Willis Halaholo on the bench allies some youth to that experienced core.