THE last Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield was short on moments to cherish from a Scottish point of view, but it was memorable for the performance, on his first start for his country, of David Kipling Denton.
The Edinburgh No 8 put in an outstanding display both in attack and defence in the 13-6 defeat, particularly when he broke clear down the left one minute, and then the next got back to put in a try-saving tackle on David Strettle.
Denton was named man of the match, despite ending up on the losing side, and if he has not always reached the same heights in the two years since, he remains a player for the big occasion: perhaps one of the few we can realistically expect to fight fire with fire against England this afternoon.
“It’s a game I’ll never forget, and a game I played pretty well in,” Denton said of that 2012 match. “I think I’ve played games equally as well, against New Zealand and South Africa.
“I’ve had a few good games, but because that was my first, and to play at Murrayfield in a Six Nations game against England – there’s nothing like it. For us as players it’s completely different. It’s crazy.”
There were glimpses of the forward’s talent in the defeat in Dublin six days ago, and he is sure that the team as a whole are not far away from putting in a more consistent performance. “Obviously after the game the boys were massively disappointed,” Denton said of the 28-6 defeat. “It’s quite hard to get your heads up after that, but when you’ve got a six-day turnaround you can’t afford to dwell on it.
“A rugby match turns on very small things and, at the end of that first half, we had a chance to go in 6-3 down, at which point we were more than happy to be away from home with that score. Anything could have happened, particularly if I had got over the line earlier in the game, it could have been a different game.
“When we were in attack I think we looked really good at times. Particularly in the first half. We had a good amount of possession in the first half, and when we had the ball going forward we were getting over the gain line.
“So we’re not that disappointed in what we did. But there are areas that we definitely need to shore up, and the area where we knew Ireland would target us in particular was the tackle area.
“We’re not learning from scratch. We’re just pointing our minds in a different direction in the sense of how we’re going to attack it.”
Forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys put a notably different emphasis on Scotland’s performance in Dublin earlier this week, using words such as “awful” and “dreadful”. Denton accepts that the scathing criticism was merited.
“We had a tough meeting with Humph on Monday or whatever it was. We as a pack let the team down in certain areas and it’s something we’re looking to amend.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to earn the respect back from our fellow-players first of all and then from everybody else.”
That six-day turnaround has meant a lot of hard work compressed into a short period this week, and certainly left Denton no spare time in which to enjoy his birthday three days ago. “I’m 24, unbelievably,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to celebrate it properly yet, and I’d love to do that on Saturday. With the Calcutta Cup.”