Warren Gatland: If we beat France we are potentially playing England for title
Warren Gatland believes his side now face two make-or-break matches which will decide their RBS 6 Nations fate after overcoming a tricky test against Scotland.
The hosts in Cardiff were behind until the 66th minute as Vern Cotter's Dark Blues gave another glimpse of the progress they are making.
But tries from Jamie Roberts and the impressive George North condemned the Scots to their ninth straight Championship defeat while firing the Welsh back into the title mix.
Frustrated after last weekend's draw in Dublin, Gatland is now targeting a win at home to unbeaten France in a fortnight's time before travelling to Twickenham to take on England on March 12 for what he believes could effectively be the tournament decider.
The Kiwi said after his side's 27-23 victory: "For us it's about the next two weeks. If we can beat France we are potentially playing England for the Championship.
"That's how it boils down, and that's taking nothing away from Italy in the last game.
"If we are able to win the next two games I think the motivation will be there to play Italy at home.
"But it's about one step at a time."
Scotland were clinging on to a slender 16-13 advantage midway through the second half when Roberts struck the decisive blow.
The visitors had responded with encouraging resolve after Gareth Davies darted away to score the seventh-minute opener - even if they felt aggrieved amid suggestions the scrum-half was offside when he picked up a loose ball from a Roberts tip - and levelled within five minutes as Tommy Seymour dotted down after a clever Finn Russell kick.
But despite matching up well at the breakdown, they were finally undone when Roberts crashed through from close range.
North then put the seal on victory with a dancing solo effort before Duncan Taylor added a late consolation score for the Scots - too little too late for a side now staring at the possibility of back-to-back whitewashes should they fail to halt their horror run.
Gatland, though, was just pleased to see his superstar wing North back to his best after a recent lean spell.
"Everyone saw how devastating he was as an attack threat when he burst onto the scene," he said. "But for whatever reason his form didn't match up with the way he was playing earlier.
"It's just really pleasing to see him now playing well and have some confidence. Hopefully he can kick on from here."
Dragons skipper Sam Warburton was impressed with both his side's second-half scorers, adding: "Jamie and George are just incredible athletes and there is no doubt in the players' minds that when they take the field they can do something special. They are two world-class players that we have got."
Scotland now go to Italy on February 27 for a match which is already clearly a wooden-spoon play-off.
There was no sign at the Principality Stadium of the hesitance which had allowed England to kick off the Eddie Jones era with a comfortable 15-9 triumph last week but once again basic individual errors cost them the opportunity to get back to winning ways.
Cotter, though, continues to maintain his side are making strides forward.
"We were in front until the 66th minute then let them score," he said. "There were much better parts of the game than last week that we will want to develop and improve.
"We're obviously upset not to win but there will be no excuses from us. We'll just keep working."
There were stand-out displays for the visitors too, with Stuart Hogg impressive before he was forced off after 36 minutes with a back injury, while try-scorer Seymour was imperious under the high ball.
"I thought it was a great performance from a number of players and Stuart was one of them," added the head coach. "I thought Tommy Seymour was great in the air too. We just need to push a bit harder and become more accurate."
Skipper Grieg Laidlaw - who kicked 11 points - refused to point the finger of blame at Irish referee George Clancy, saying: "People make mistakes but I certainly thought [Davies] was offside. But we are not going to get that back."