SCOTLAND headed to Cardiff as dark horses for the Six Nations title but Wales ended the day with that honour after dishing out a 34-7 hammering at Principality Stadium.

The pre-match talk had been about a Scottish side buoyed by a strong autumn campaign ending their Cardiff hoodoo with a first win in the capital since 2002.

Gregor Townsend’s men had been considered rivals to favourites England and Ireland but such chat looked fanciful as the game progressed.

Instead it’s Warren Gatland’s side whose odds are shortening ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Twickenham thanks to their first Six Nations win with a bonus point.

Tries by scrum-half Gareth Davies and full-back Leigh Halfpenny in a frantic, bonkers opening earned a 14-0 lead that they held at the break and then the number 15’s boot secured the spoils in the opening stages of the second half.

Halfpenny’s second set up the chase for a bonus point and it came with seven minutes to go when Steff Evans flew over down the left.

It was a mightily impressive performance by Wales and one that should send belief soaring for the encounter with the champions in England.

They may have been missing certain starters Sam Warburton, Jake Ball, Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies but they were comfortably the better side.

Flankers Josh Navidi and Aaron Shingler were immense, justifying the decision to select Lion Justin Tipuric as a replacement, and the tight five did the dirty work but also threw in some cute touches.

Dragons captain Cory Hill had arguably his best international game and showed some lovely footballing skills to go with a huge appetite for graft before going off for a head injury assessment just before the hour.

Wing Josh Adams looked at home on the Test stage on debut while the Scarlets 9-10-12-13 axis of Davies, classy Rhys Patchell, Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams ran smoothly.

Wales played with a verve and vigour to earn a hefty lead and then controlled the game against underwhelming guests to secure the spoils through the boot of Halfpenny, another who had a big performance by mixing attacking threat with his usual solidity.

It was a one-sided game that ensured the crowd was slightly subdued in the second half yet it looked set to be a cracker in a breathless opening.

The Scots made a rapid start with a big burst into the 22 by giant lock Jonny Gray in the second minute only for Wales to scramble and flanker Josh Navidi to win a vital turnover.

It was harum-scarum stuff but it took seven minutes for the first score and it was opportunistic with scrum-half Gareth Davies picking off an ill-judged pass from opposite number Ali Price inside Wales’ half and then having the gas to beat centre Chris Harris to the line.

The score was wide on the left but full-back Leigh Halfpenny added the extras for 7-0 and it was agonisingly close to 14-0 after a lightning breakout in the ninth minute, forwards Aaron Shingler, Cory Hill, Rob Evans and Alun Wyn Jones combining only for wing Steff Evans to knock on with the line at his mercy.

The Scots had enjoyed a lucky escape but promptly blew it with a crooked feed that allowed Wales to go right back on the attack with Halfpenny finishing down the right against defence that was all at sea for his first Test try in five years.

There were just 13 minutes on the clock but the conversion made it 14-0 and the pre-match Scottish confidence had dissipated, although wee magicians Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg were ensuring that Wales would not get ahead of themselves.

The hosts – with flankers Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi everywhere – were making much better decisions than the Scots in a frantic first quarter that had both sides breathing heavily.

Scotland, however, had shored up their defence and one jackal penalty allowed Russell to bang them into the 22 only for the mightily impressive Navidi to once again relieve the pressure.

The men in blue nilled Wales in the second half in Edinburgh last year and it looked like they could suffer the same fate in Cardiff in the first period.

A well-weighted kick through in the 35th minute earned another chance when Halfpenny was forced to carry the ball over his line, only for a botched move from the solid scrum to offer yet another cheap escape.

That was the last clear chance of the first half and Wales headed to their changing room with a spring in their step, but knowing there was still plenty of work to do.

The first half had not featured a single penalty at goal yet two minutes after the restart Halfpenny punished a breakdown offence to stretch the lead to a formidable 17 points before repeating the trick for 20-0 after 48 minutes.

It was a little to early to say game over but Wales were on the brink and an increasingly shambolic Scotland and the killer blow came after 62 minutes when Halfpenny was put over down the right following some lusty charges on the line.

His conversion made it 27-0 and there was plenty of time to chase the bonus, with replacement loosehead Wyn Jones going agonisingly close to earning it with quarter of an hour left only to be held up over the line.

Another chance went begging when captain Alun Wyn Jones charged through a hole in midfield only for Gareth Anscombe to drop the pass.

But it was a five-point haul in the 74th minute when a flowing move was ended by Steff Evans acrobatically flying over down the left with Halfpenny twisting the knife from the touchline to make it 34-0.

It was a perfect afternoon for Wales but there was one man who was nervous in the stadium – defence coach Shaun Edwards.

The Scots hammered away at the line in a bid to trouble the scoreboard operator for the first time and finally scored when replacement centre Peter Horne slipped through at a ruck.

Finn Russell converted but it was still a pointless trip to Wales for the Scots.

Wales: L Halfpenny, J Adams, S Williams (O Watkin 70), H Parkes, S Evans, R Patchell (G Anscombe 62), G Davies (A Davies 65), R Evans (W Jones 50), K Owens (E Dee 62), S Lee (T Francis 50), C Hill (B Davies 55), AW Jones (captain), A Shingler, J Navidi, R Moriarty (J Tipuric 64).

Scorers: tries – G Davies, L Halfpenny (2), S Evans; conversions – L Halfpenny (4); penalties – L Halfpenny (2)

Scotland: S Hogg, T Seymour, C Harris (P Horne 54), H Jones, B McGuigan (S Maitland 54), F Russell, A Price (G Laidlaw 48), G Reid (J Bhatti 48-75), S McInally (S Lawson 69), J Welsh (M McCallum 64), B Toolis (G Gilchrist 54), J Gray, J Barclay (captain), H Watson, C du Preez (R Wilson 48).

Scorers: try – P Horne; conversion – F Russell

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

Attendance: 74,169

Argus star man: Aaron Shingler