That Scotland and Vern Cotter were left ruing Saturday’s late loss to New Zealand speaks volumes on the progression of the squad.
One large measure of pride, a dollop of fulfilment, and a drizzle of frustration, garnished with a slice of regret.
No, not the latest addition to the Murrayfield Hotel’s cocktail menu – that which the SRU marketing team had surely been attacking with great vigour while designing the gaudy scarlet strip that had its first outing on Saturday – but the blend of emotions likely scorching Scottish livers after their 16-24 loss to New Zealand.
When the hangover subsides, and the mind clears, they will be left with memories of a stubborn display, matching the All Blacks physically in a game packed with attrition and brawn.
Falling short will sting. Not least given the history – Scotland having never beaten the Kiwis – and the fact that with ten minutes to play, captain Greig Laidlaw had a shot at the posts to put his side two points ahead.
While he lined up the kick, a palpable sense of incredulity rippled round Murrayfield as its significance dawned simultaneously on some sixty-thousand people.
Almost certainly, had Laidlaw’s kick not hung in the air and dropped wide of the posts, it would not have been the last score of the game. Almost certainly, the All Blacks would have found their way inexorably downfield, and almost certainly, they would have delivered the sucker-punch, as they eventually did through Jeremy Thrush’s try.
And yet, there persists a niggling sense of what might have been.
“I’d say we’re disappointed, but if you look at the content and what the players did on the paddock, it’s hard for a coach to be unhappy when you see that type of effort, that desire, determination on the field,” said head coach, Vern Cotter.
“I’m gutted with that. It was a massive eighty minute performance from us, and to be honest, that’s one we can look at that’s gotten away from us,” said full-back, Stuart Hogg.
A missed opportunity, then?
“Yes,” said flanker, Rob Harley. “I think for large parts we got the performance that we wanted, and we got incredible backing from the crowd. We had the energy there, and we did have our chances. We left everything out there; we’re just disappointed we didn’t get the result.”
These reactions speak volumes. For a Scotland squad perhaps at its lowest ebb nine months ago, licking wounds inflicted by an insipid Calcutta Cup loss, to rue narrow defeat to the world’s best is remarkable.
The Vern Cotter Revolution remains in its infancy, but the evidence from the past fortnight suggests it is more than just another flash in the pan. The rapid impact – in terms both of style and culture – the Kiwi has made upon his players is most heartening.
“The boys are high in confidence; we’re going out there expressing ourselves and showing we can play rugby,” added Hogg.
“Our defence was outstanding today; on the flip side our attack was good as well. We’re getting closer and closer every time, we’re going in the right direction, and the boys are happy with that performance. We’re in a good place right now.”
It was unlikely, penalty miss or not, that the Scots would be toasting a famous victory come full-time. But Saturday’s showing provides real confirmation that this is a team unshackled, assured, and enjoying their rugby. I’ll drink to that.