THERE was a time when at five o’clock on a Saturday evening, climbing behind the couch wasn’t a bad idea. Doctor Who had that effect on people. Four (maybe five) decades on, I felt like hiding again watching Scotland being ripped apart by England in the first-half at Twickenham. By full-time, my mood – and that of a nation - had changed, although a few hours on I’m not quite sure whether I should have celebrated or drowned my sorrows.

Having played for 70 minutes against Italy, and in limited instalments against Ireland, France and Wales, Scotland went for broke as they trailed 31-0 after half an hour yesterday, to pull off an amazing comeback, almost the most incredible international victory in history, but ultimately, restore a great deal of pride in what has been a fractured campaign.

All the aspirations ahead of that first game against Italy, and even after that opening Saturday victory, were slowly eroded, leaving us with just one win up until the England game  to show for all the trials and tribulations this term. Still, mixing metaphors and managers, in the words of Ally MacLeod in 1978, it’ll be fine once we get to the World Cup. It might well be if the final 50 minutes in west London was anything to pin your hopes on.


With France beating Italy and Wales clinching the Grand Slam against the Irish, it effectively turned the Twickenham game in to a dead rubber. Just pride and some old forged rupees to play for. A chance for some exhibition stuff, surely? Yes, but no-one could possibly have predicted the twists and turns that would fill match time.

Yesterday began with the match ball being delivered, after a bike run from Stirling to Twickers, by former Scotland captain Rob Wainwright, round the world biker Mark Beaumont, endurance cyclist Russell Kelsey and a few other on their latest Doddie Gump, on behalf of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. A worthy cause, but as England were running in tries for fun during the opening exchanges at the rate of a point per minute, a well-intentioned wrong turning somewhere in the Midlands may have been a better idea. No ball, no game.

The day started badly for the Scots and deteriorated. I’m not a fan of the tune, but who dictates Flower of Scotland should be played in waltz-time? Take your partners for a St Bernard’s.

For Scottish football fans, ‘67’ means so much. Yesterday that was all it took, in seconds, for England to score. Cue ‘Sweet Chariot.’ Unfortunately, it was supercharged and had four-wheel drive and rumbled over the Scots in those early battles. Around this time I received a text from a mate. “Heading back in to Richmond and the Orange Tree. Cannae watch this.” I hope they had a telly.

For when all appeared lost, from somewhere, Scotland managed to pull out a fightback of epic proportions. Guys who had looked lost, suddenly became world -beaters; McInally, Maitland, Graham, Russell, Johnson and others, all of them really. We knew Scotland could play like that. We had seen it before. But given how their self-belief must have been steamrollered in that opening quarter, this effort will be written in to Scots rugby, if not sporting folklore. But let us not forget how close we’d come to an absolute disaster yesterday before salvaging self-respect and some much-needed championship points. But what, ultimately, have we achieved this far in to 2019?


Before a ball was kicked, passed or dropped in anger, I had upset one or two with my prediction that, at best, Scotland might finish fourth in this year’s Six Nations. My guesstimate actually had a bit of logic behind it. Italy was a given, but we don’t win on the road that often, especially in Paris or London, while Ireland and Wales are quite (very) decent teams, but at Murrayfield, we just might – with a decent wind - shade it against one of them.

We didn’t and fourth became fifth, accompanied by a catalogue of excuses; not turning pressure in to points, not being accurate or clinical enough, and, not having any luck when it comes to losing key personnel. Let’s take that point first

There has been a steady progression at international level whereby Scotland has built strength and experience in depth, something that on reflection, really wasn’t there a decade back, no matter how much we may kid ourselves. However, unlike England and perhaps the French, Scotland still don’t have the cover or resource to accommodate a casualty count running in to double figures, if not dozens.

Even for the layman, the attrition rate during this championship has not gone unnoticed. Five test matches in seven weeks, particularly given the intensity of the international game today, is enough to break bodies. Good job no-one has ever been daft enough to think out loud that five successive weekend Tests could be an option in the future.


However, much of Scotland’s woes have been self-imposed. Compared to 12 months ago, when we looked to score on any play, from any position, over the last few weeks we have collectively just ran up too many blind alleys. Yes, it all fell in to place latterly against England, but be honest, on another day we’d have been crushed and left humiliated.

Instead we weren’t, instead we left with a touch of optimism, and instead of pain, we left with that ancient silver pot, the Calcutta Cup.

Moving pictures of Scotland’s last victory at Twickenham are not quite in monochrome, more a slightly washed-out colour. The video tape should last a few more years before it breaks down to dust, through age. However, after our near- disintegration yesterday, we still live with the prospect of that historic recording decaying before we win again.

Better teams than the one eventually selected by Gregor Townsend have biennially headed south, more in hope than honest belief in search of that illusive victory. In two years time, at least we will travel with significantly more optimism, even if it is 38 years, and counting …