There was no greater embodiment of the mix of emotions swirling around the Scottish camp on Saturday evening than debutant prop Allan Dell, whose dismay at ending up on the losing side was fighting a visible battle with the elation of winning his first cap in front of a packed BT Murrayfield.
The injury crisis at prop has seen the 24-year-old Edinburgh loosehead fast-tracked into the Test arena and, along with first-time starter Zander Fagerson at tighthead, formed the starting front row alongside new cap centurion Ross Ford.
It was far from a perfect scrumming day but, given that two thirds of the front line only had three caps to their names, it was an admirable and, at times, impressive shift at the coalface.
“Everyone says your first game goes by in a flash but, oh goodness, I was looking up at that clock a few times and it wasn’t going by too quickly,” said Dell. “Second half it really slowed down and I had to go off as I cramped up a bit. But it was so good to be out there, really enjoyable. I loved it.”
Dell admitted that to lose by a point was a sickener but insisted that the squad would start the week in preparation for this Saturday’s Test against Argentina in as positive a mindset as possible.
“I’m happy with the debut and incredibly honoured to get the cap. Deeply disappointed with the loss but at the end of the day I’ll be happy,” said Dell. “If you lose a game by 40 points you know you have been beaten. Lose a game by one and you know you could have won it. If we had just done things differently, controlled things better. But that’s the nature of rugby. It’s now how we build on it and improve.
“There has to be a fine line in the analysis of the game. You don’t want to be too critical of yourselves. You’ve got to embrace the positives otherwise you’re not going to move forward.
“If you harp on the negatives you end up taking backward steps. We had Australia there, so we’ll look at the positives and aim to fix the things that didn’t go quite right.” Dell is aware that the Argentines always come with a formidable reputation as a scrumming unit but he reckons the Scottish pack will relish the challenge.
“Growing up you always appreciate that the likes of Argentina and France are the ones known for their massive scrumming performance,” said Dell. “But we’ve got a strong scrum and now have a reputation for that. It will obviously be a different challenge to Australia so, on Monday, we’ll start preparing for that and working out how we attack them.”
Fagerson, pictured, believes the assuredness of his and Dell’s showing is evidence that Scotland’s young stars are ready to step up when called upon.
“A lot of people have been playing us down for being so young but we definitely stepped up,” said the Glasgow tighthead.
“We did some good things, we did some bad things but it was definitely a great day in the office for learning.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves as it’s only one game but Delly put in a massive shift. I’m really proud of him.
“We’ve got guys like Rory Sutherland and Alasdair Dickinson there still to come into things so our strength in depth is massively improved on.
“There are lots of young boys getting the chance to get involved now in every position. Guys like Magnus Bradbury and Ali Price have shown that so Vern [Cotter] does reward you if you’re playing well for your club, so that can only be good for Scotland.”
Fagerson was also able to soak in the occasion and added: “It was an amazing experience. The crowd was awesome.
“You could really hear them out there. It’s a shame about the result but I loved being out there.”