Scotland returned to the scene of last year’s Rugby League World Cup success and captain Danny Brough marked the occasion with a typically maverick scrum-half display which won the game for the Bravehearts.
The 2013 Super League Man of Steel shone throughout, causing chaos in the swirling Cumbria wind with his kick-offs and bombs, grabbing a try himself and kicking five of his eight conversion attempts in rapidly deteriorating conditions.
Three tries in five second-half minutes put Scotland back in charge soon after Wales had got back in the contest at 16-14 with two tries of their own, one a minute or so either side of the break, through Christian Roets and Connor Farrer.
Brough put Jonathan Walker in from close range on 46 minutes and converted, then a ludicrously high Brough kick defeated Wales full-back Tom Hughes, winger David Scott from Stirling collecting the ball instead to score.
Brough’s conversion made it 28-14 and, two minutes later, the Phillips brothers, playing on their home ground, combined, Brett handing over to Callum to dart over. Brough surprisingly sliced the kick wide but the honorary home side led 32-14. Scott secured victory ten minutes later, after a period of ragged Welsh dominance in the blustery rain, finishing off a neat handling move on the right.
Steve McCormack’s side knew they needed to start their European campaign with victory if they were to challenge for their first ever continental crown and with it a place at the 2016 Four Nations tournament against the code’s big boys, England, Australia and New Zealand.
With trips to Ireland next Saturday and a clash with favourites France at Galashiels on 31 October, and missing a baker’s dozen of their World Cup squad through a mixture of injuries, retirements and a suspension, the new-look side were hoping to gel from the off.
They only did that in patches, with their timing understandably out on occasion, but their appetite for defence impressed throughout, teenagers Sonny Esslemont and Corbyn Kilday not looking out of place in the second row.
The shaven-headed Kilday, one of five debutants, delighted his Glaswegian father from Bridgeton watching on in the main stand, when he touched down on the right, Brough converting from the touchline to make it 16-4. By then Scotland had responded positively to Wales going ahead on ten minutes through burly winger Rhys Williams.
A superb kick-off by Brough wobbled and swirled so much that Wales could not keep it from bouncing into touch. From the scrum, Brough ran around to skip over untouched. His class was showing. The Huddersfield Giants star then ran a last-play option with Oscar Thomas taking an inside ball to score on his debut to put the Bravehearts 10-4 up.
McCormack used his young bench, bringing on Easterhouse Panthers product Louis Senter for his debut as the Welsh ran out of steam.
Brough left the stage after 73 minutes of his usual mischief-making and creative string-pulling, a couple of minutes after one last sprinkle of magic, a beautiful, delayed pass conning the exhausted Welsh defence for Brett Phillips to score, Brough’s goal putting Scotland 42-14 up. There was time for Farrer to add a second in a rainstorm, but that could not dampen a fine start to the Bravehearts’ bid for European glory.
Scorers: Scotland: Tries: Brough, Thomas, Kilday, J Walker, Scott (2), C Phillips, B Phillips. Goals: Brough (5). Wales: Tries: Williams, Roets, Farrer (2). Goal: Reece.
Scotland: O Thomas, D Scott, B Hellewell, J Wardle, A Hurst, D Brough, N Massey, A Walker, D Addy, B Kavanagh, B Phillips, C Kilday, S Esslemont. Subs: C Phillips, J Barlow, J Walker, L Senter.
Wales: T Hughes, Y Parker, K Scrivens, C Roets, R Williams, O Olds, P Lupton, D Fleming, R Hough, M Barron, P Carleton, A Bateman, J Burke. Subs: C Farrer, M Evans, I Duffy, L Reece.
Referee: J Child (Eng).