'We had to get a result and we weren't good enough'
Scott Johnson, Scotland’s interim coach, found the funny side of taking credit for masterminding a victory with 29 per cent possession and 35 per cent territory.
The Australian referenced Muhammad Ali’s famous rope-a-dope defeat of George Foreman, mistaking him for Joe Frazier, in Kinshasa in 1974.
But it wasn’t an apt comparison. Scotland didn’t plan to win the game the way they did. They were handed victory and were decent enough to admit it.
“Today Ireland didn’t punish us and we showed great resolve to hang on in there,” said Johnson. “The scoreboard pressure can determine so many things.”
Donncha O’Callaghan and Rob Kearney struggled to fathom what had transpired and O’Callaghan concluded that Ireland had bottled it.
“We were the better team on the day,” said Kearney. “We created more try-scoring opportunities, they’re two facets of the game, possession-wise we had so much more than them and even used it better as well, we were the only team that looked like scoring tries . . .”
O’Callaghan was visibly devastated by this crushing defeat. The loss of so many key players and leaders was offered as a reason.
“Yeah, it’s an excuse if you want to use it but I’d be honest with you, from training with these lads you’d back them the whole time.
“And that’s the worst thing, the worst feeling when you feel that you’ve come up short as a 15 and . .. it’s a horrible dressing-room at the moment. No one’s making eye contact, it’s just a terrible old feeling in there.”
O’Callaghan spoke about the absence of a ruthless streak after Craig Gilroy’s try made it 8-0 on 43 minutes.
“We felt like we were executing our game plan. It’s just, like I said, a killer instinct to get across the line and find a way.
“We’ll go back and look at the patterns we tried to play and you’d say they were executed correctly, but it’s doing that bit extra, isn’t it? So it’s a hard one to take. It’s a sickener.”
O’Callaghan sought to shoulder the responsibility for defeat, even though the temperature for the management team is now nearing boiling point.
“We’re a tight group. The biggest thing it will do is dent confidence. We need to get back. If ever we needed the Aviva we need it in the next few weeks but it’s a scarring result to carry with you for so long.”
And then he called it. Ireland blew it. “I’d love to give them more credit for the win, I really would but, and I don’t mean to take anything away from them, I think we bottled it. We had to get a result and we weren’t good enough . . . we had the winning of that game and weren’t good enough to take it which is really tough to take. It’s the worst period in sport.”
Kearney added: “Coaches are under pressure, players are under pressure, everyone has to bear the brunt of that; today was a game we should have won and we didn’t so questions have be asked.
“That’s the nature of the game, that’s how it goes but there are positives amidst all the glaze there at the end, there is a lot we can take from that. France too, they’re going to be a wounded animal as well.”