IT WAS the ultimate bittersweet experience for Darcy Graham. The Scotland winger played superbly against New Zealand on Sunday, scoring one exceptional try and having another acrobatic effort chalked off by the narrowest of margins, and yet still found himself on the losing side.

To put in a world-class performance against one of the three best sides on the planet has to be a source of pride, but perhaps that made the 23-31 defeat even more frustrating for the 25-year-old. After all, if you play badly and lose, all you can do is admit that you got what you deserved. But, having played so well and lost, Graham was left to reflect on what might have been, and in particular on two key areas of the game which proved most costly to Scotland - the opening ten minutes and his own disallowed score.

“Heartbreaking,” he said after the match. “I feel gutted to fall short. The first ten minutes probably let us down, but then to fall short was gutting.”

The home team fell 14-0 behind in that opening spell, and although they fought back to lead 23-14 at one point, the effort required to get back on top may well have taken its toll as the All Blacks hit back in the final quarter-hour. “If you take that first ten minutes out of the game we played bloody well,” Graham continued. “I think the boys should hold their heads high.

“I think we have to take massive confidence from that game. They’re a world-class team and we put up a fight.

“It could easily have got away from us, but we did really well to come back and go into the lead at half-time. We were in control. 

“They obviously took the lead, but we were still in the game and still confident. The scoreline kind of hurts.”

The winger’s try that counted was impressive enough as he intercepted, shook off on tackle, then rounded the last defender. But his next effort was even more spectacular as he dived in at the right corner to dot the ball down before making contact with the corner flag - only for a replay to reveal that he had had part of a foot in touch.

“Another heartbreaking moment,” he reflected. “It's a game of inches, isn't it? Another half-inch and I would have scored it. 

“It changes the game. It would have been a great finish if it stood so it’s very frustrating. It would have been a massive turning point.

“I thought I had got it - it was actually my inside foot that touched the line. I had managed to keep my outside foot up in the air. Another half-inch and it was a try.”

And as for the legitimate effort? “I just stuck my arm out and the ball stuck to it. I took off. My legs felt very heavy very quickly because the pitch was quite heavy, but I managed to finish it so I was absolutely buzzing. 

“It was definitely one of my best and something I'll cherish for the rest of my life. To score that against the All Blacks, a world-class team, is an incredible achievement.”

Scotland now face Argentina on Saturday in their last match of the year, and Graham is all too well aware of who the Pumas’ danger man will be. His Edinburgh team-mate Emiliano Boffelli scored the winning points against Scotland in the three-Test summer series, and earlier this month came as close as any Argentinian since Diego Maradona to beating England single-handedly when he racked up 25 points in his team’s 30-29 win at Twickenham.

“He's very consistent as a player. He’s an unbelievable goalkicker and he can kick from anywhere. He doesn't miss.

“So we can’t give any penalties - discipline is key. It was good against New Zealand. A couple of easy ones slipped in, but it was a lot better compared to Fiji. It was something we spoke about last week: we wanted to fix it and we did.

“Argentina will be confident off the back of the Summer Tour. We’re due them one for that. We just need to have that hunger and fight for everything.”