STUART HOGG apologised to his Scotland team-mates after last night’s tense Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin for losing control of the ball in the act of touching down for a try which would have swung the match into the away team’s favour at a crucial moment midway through the second half.

“I'm bitterly disappointed to drop ball over the line,” he said. “We got ourselves into a good position after the forwards’ good work. I'm so disappointed I couldn't finish it off. I’ve apologised to the boys. What will be will be and we have to move on.”

While that error was undoubtedly a key moment, Hogg made it clear he wasn’t going to dwell on it. As the newly-installed captain, he has a responsibility to look at the bigger picture rather than self-pity – and the 27-year-old proved with an impressive all-round performance that those who doubted his temperament for the role had misjudged him.

“I'm incredibly proud of the boys,” said Hogg. “We came across here with a huge task on our hands and we fronted up. Our defence stood firm which is something we've worked incredibly hard on.

“The last couple of weeks we've spoken a lot about expressing ourselves and having some fun. The boys played with a lot of confidence and ambition, which I loved. We didn't seem flustered at all. We knew Ireland would be physical and they proved that, but our forwards stood firm and took the game to them.

“We talk a lot about our conversion rate in attack and making sure when we get into the 22 we're coming away with points, but unfortunately we came up short there. We got into some good situations and should have finished them off. But we've got to give credit to Ireland's defence. They made it a nightmare for us at the breakdown and stood firm in those last few phases of the game.

“We're bitterly disappointed not to have come away with a result, but we feel we're in a good place and it's now about kicking on and learning from today come next Saturday.”

One area for improvement will be discipline, with Scotland conceding 15 penalties, including three soft ones within kicking range which allowed Jonny Sexton to keep the home team’s noses ahead.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said: “We just can’t afford to give away soft penalties, whether it’s running across someone’s line when they are chasing kicks or not getting out of the breakdown quick enough and the scrum-half passing to you, because that takes the pressure off the opposition and puts the pressure on you. To give away 15 penalties is too many if you want to win a Test match in a venue where Ireland have only lost once in the last five years."

Townsend did, however, express frustration that his team did not seem to get the benefit of the doubt from referee Mathieu Raynal, especially at the breakdown where Ireland won several turnover or penalties at key moments.

“I think several times it was definitely around our speed to contact and our ball-carrier needing to do more work on the ground, but also having looked straight away at a couple of incidents I thought we were unlucky with players in green jerseys having hands on the ground, not supporting their own bodyweight and ripping the ball as players went to their knees.

“So, we just didn’t get the luck at the breakdown, but also credit to Ireland for being fast in there and disrupting our ball close to the try-line. I’m really frustrated with the one at the end of the game [as Scotland pushed for a late try which would have secured a draw] because I was watching phase after phase and it didn’t look like many players behind the try-line, which at that point was the off-side line.

“But we have to be better than the decisions we are maybe not getting on the field, and we have to take those opportunities when we were in their 22 and even five metres from their line."

Townsend concluded with some words of praise for Hogg, who has had a difficult first few weeks in the captain’s chair.

“I thought he was outstanding on the field today. I thought his energy, his decision-making and his kicking was excellent, and he’s led the team really well the last two weeks. We’ll work to get better as a group and Stuart will bounce back very quickly from that [missed try-scoring opportunity].”