WATCHING Scotland throw away a 15-point lead on Saturday night was tough to take, but it wasn’t as bad as head coach Gregor Townsend claiming afterwards that this was his team’s best performance of the season.

He congratulated Argentina for the way they fought back to claim the win through an injury time try by Emiliano Boffelli, but unlike captain Hamish Watson he failed to acknowledge the role his team had played in their own demise. 

It was an insult to our intelligence. Choosing to focus on the good bits and ignoring the inconvenient bad bits is nonsense. The catalogue of unforced errors and tactical blunders committed by the tourists during the last half hour of this match must overshadow the positives from the first 50 minutes. The fact that these sorts of calamities have become a well-rehearsed routine for this team adds to the sense of incredulity at Townsend’s attempt at positive spin. 

“It was a disappointing end to the match [but] I think in the game itself there was a number of positives,” Townsend claimed immediately after watching his side blow a golden opportunity to win a Test series against the world’s ninth ranked team.  “I’m really proud of how the team went about their task of winning a Test series in a really tough environment against a very good side. 

“To build such a commanding lead, to be playing so well, and not win, is really disappointing and frustrating for the players because those are the guys who put the effort in. This would have been a famous victory, but it wasn’t and Argentina took their chance at the end to win the game. 

“What we’ve created here, we’ve got to make sure we save that in our minds,” he added. “I’m so proud of how the players have come together and grown as a group – they have represented their country outstandingly well off the field over here. 

“And they have shown on the field that they really care for each other with the way they defended their line in the second Test and the way they put their body on the line today.” 

This pep talk would be great to hear if Scotland were going on a camping expedition or taking part in a reality TV popularity contest next September and October, but they are, in fact, heading to a World Cup – and the evidence from this summer is that Townsend and his team are way off the pace in terms of being prepared for that huge challenge. 

They have been drawn in a devilishly tough pool in which they will have to manage at least one win against either Ireland, who secured a first-ever series win in New Zealand on Saturday, or world champions South Africa. The reality is that it will be a major achievement if they can keep the score respectable against those two sides. 

Townsend has said all along that this tour was as much about growing the player pool he will eventually pick from for the World Cup, and he will point to the valuable game time he was able to give the likes of Ewan Ashman, Ollie Smith, Rory Hutchinson, Kyle Rowe (briefly before injury) and, of course, Blair Kinghorn in the No10 slot. 

But surely the priority needs to be generating some sort of winning momentum to take into this World Cup year, so that new faces can be introduced into a stable environment. 

This constant shrugging of shoulders and promising that ‘we’ll learn from this’ became tedious a long time ago. So many of the things that are going wrong are easily avoidable, with the ongoing problem with restarts suggesting a confusion over priorities, because that is a basic of the game which is fixable if properly addressed. 

Twice during the last half hour of Saturday’s match, Scotland scored points only fluff their lines when Argentina got the game going again, leading to the concession of tries three minutes later.  

Then, when they got a chance to slow Argentina’s momentum with a penalty just to the left of the posts, Scotland turned down the three easy points on offer and opted instead to go to the corner but couldn’t ground the ball over the line. Ali Price’s clearance which went out on the full, therefore handing the Pumas an attacking line-out with six minutes to go, was another self-inflicted wound. 

Townsend spoke a lot during the last Six Nations about compounding errors with more errors – and that’s exactly what we got, yet again, in this match. 

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. 

Scotland are stuck in a rut, and they are not going to escape until they start facing up to some awkward truths and begin to demand more from each other.