It was, as the old joke puts it, deja vu all over again. This might be the year of the underdog but no-one has told the rugby gods because once again the Scots were overhauled by Australia in the final furlong like that marathon runner with the jelly legs.
The clock showed four minutes remaining when Tevita Kurindrani conjured up the matchwinner out of nothing more than Murrayfield mist.
“We always come back to the old saying of fine margins,” said a rueful Vern Cotter who was again unhappy with the match officials.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say the best team won. It came down to very few things. I’m incredibly proud of the players and the way they played that game.
“There are things we can control and things we can’t, so we focus on the things we can. The players played with immense courage and threw themselves at it.
“I think we didn’t get the rub of the green at times. The team adapted to injuries but it might have come to… look, I’ve got to be careful with what I say.”
“We held that ball for a long period right at the end of the game and I think something could have come from that, should have come from it, and it didn’t.”
The truth is that penalties usually go to the team in the ascendant, which was the Wallabies in the second half of yesterday’s match, but at least Cotter has plenty of positives to take away from yesterday’s performance, especially that of Huw Jones.
“He’s a good player… two tries at Murrayfield in his first start,” said Cotter. “I think there was energy from everyone and he fed off that.
“There are some real positives to come out of this game, these boys turned up and played well. Remember there are things that we have got that we can work on and develop and improve as well. The guys did well, they fought for each other from start to finish and that is probably what is disappointing, you give so much and then…”
The Scots played most of the rugby in the first half although there was an inevitability about the Wallaby fightback, and they won the second half penalty count 8-2 and set up camp in the home red zone. Still, Scotland edged the try count and only Bernard Foley’s superior stats off the tee helped nudge the visitors over the finish line.
In contrast, Greig Laidlaw was below his best with the boot, missing a long-range penalty and hitting the post with his third attempted conversion.
“We need to go back and look at a few decisions,” said the Scotland skipper, who echoed his coach in questioning John Lacey’s judgment.
“We were probably harshly penalised on a few occasions and that gives them easy field position to be able to play in our half. There were a couple of times we kicked the ball out when I reckon we should have kicked the ball long and tried to chase, rather than give them set-piece in our half.
“We understand where we are. We believe we’re so much better, so much more organised and we know exactly what each other is doing. We’re pretty much in every game that we play now, it’s about getting a bit of luck. Everybody needs a little bit of luck to get over that line.
“One of my kicks just clipped the inside of the post today. A lick of paint and that goes through, we’re home and hosed, but unfortunately we cough up a try at the end…”
Like his coach before him, Laidlaw left the obvious sentiment unspoken.