After months of intense competition, major upsets and varied scorelines, the annual Six Nations Rugby Tournament came to a close in March. For Scotland, they boasted only one draw and one win, finishing a disappointing 5th in the final table. They lost three games. Albeit those three could have been victories had they seized their chances. We seem to say it nearly every year, but Scotland were once again the brave losers. Now, with the Six Nations over and the clock ticking down to the Japan 2019, how will Scotland assess their recent efforts?
Looking at the defeats, Scotland allowed Ireland to put them to the sword at Murrayfield a week after they defeated Italy in the opening round, despite having the majority of ball possession and having more opportunities to score. Two weeks later, Scotland showcased a poor performance in Paris in the first half, allowing the opposition to switch off after the break and Scotland sneaking back in. This happened to a varying degree against Wales where the Scots fell short once again after missing numerous chances to put points on the scoreboard. Most supporters blame the horrific injury list for Scotland’s poor performances, which included Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn and Huw Jones, and were forced to bring in new un-capped players such as Darcey Graham. With the Calcutta Cup being the final match, it seemed like all hopes winning the Six Nations had well and truly been crushed.
The last game of the tournament was perhaps the most significant, in the sense that in terms of performance, that thrilling England draw has perhaps left Gregor Townsend with more questions unanswered than he had at the start of the Six Nations. Scotland was being overrun so comprehensively in the first half that the opposition became seduced by the scoreboard, allowing the English to concede six un-answered tries - including four in just twelve minutes - before George Ford put an end to the sudden comeback. There is no denying that the first forty minutes were a complete disaster for the Scots when they were down 31-0. However, the Scots rose up, fought back and took the lead in the 76th minute thanks to the brilliance of Finn Russell, but could not hold on for a first win at Twickenham since 1983. It was the cruellest of blows with which to end the bravest of all comebacks in international rugby history. Even so, the draw meant that Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup for the first time since 1984. Now that is something to celebrate about.
Yes, this has been a curious tournament for Scotland. They ended with one win and one draw from six. Scotland’s men are a dangerous rugby team, but they have a lot of growing up and learning to do before the World Cup. The question is: are Scotland ready to go to the next level? The Summer Tests will provide more answers.