Gregor Townsend impressed but rues Stuart Hogg disallowed try

Are you a glass half-empty character or do you insist, like that Monty Python lot, on looking on the bright side of life? Because Scotland’s opening Six Nations performance had something to satisfy everyone.

Stuart Hogg scores a try which is later disallowed. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

If you are a pessimist by nature then the jaded performance of the first half and three Italy tries late in the piece provide fuel for your misery. If you boast a sunnier disposition, then a bonus point win against anyone in the Six Nations is rare enough to merit popping the champagne corks especially when it included Scotland’s first-ever Championship hat-trick in this millennium, courtesy of Blair Kinghorn. The last Scot to claim three tries in the Five/Six Nations was Iwan Tukalo...against Ireland in 1989, another era altogether.

“I was very impressed,” said Gregor Townsend, pictured, when asked about the hat-trick hero. “He’s got a temperament where it seems that nothing fazes him. He started his first game over in Dublin last year, scored in the corner and made two line breaks in addition. He scored a try in Argentina in the summer and three today and he’s the quickest player in our squad.

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“He’s been playing regularly at full-back but we know he’s someone who can play very well on the wing. He’s got the attributes of a full-back but he’s also very quick. That’s a positive for us and it obviously adds to the depth and it will be a tough selection next week if or when Sean Maitland becomes available.”

Blair Kinghorn scores the second of his three tries at Murrayfield, putting the Scots in command. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty

Maitland isn’t the only one easing his way back into contention as Townsend let slip that several others, Fraser Brown, Jonny Gray and Peter Horne have been training with the squad and should be available for Ireland. He may need some reserves since WP Nel has a tight calf and Sam Skinner rolled his ankle early in proceedings.

Three late Italy scores may have dampened the mood at Murrayfield but Townsend dismissed them and suggested that the final quarter might have panned out differently had Stuart Hogg’s impressive second-half solo effort been allowed to stand.

“I can’t believe that didn’t get played through and then go to check it because Ali Price was pushed off the ball when supporting on the inside,” said Townsend. “He was behind Stuart so there was no blocking.

“Stuart scored one of the best tries you will see at BT Murrayfield and obviously that would have been a bit of a lift for us. But rather than get the try and a restart on the halfway line they have a kick on the 22 and that put us under more pressure.

“You can look at that and analyse that last 15 minutes but credit to Italy. They ran the ball from their 22, and we didn’t react to that quickly which is disappointing. And then once you allowed a team to get into that area it becomes harder to defend.

“They maybe tried things that they didn’t try early in the game, passes are sticking and maybe we didn’t smarten up when a man down. We were still putting a lot of bodies into rucks, which had been successful up to that point but when the ball came out they had an extra one or two players to exploit the space.”

Those late Italy tries may even do the Scots a favour, Townsend suggested, because it would prevent them from getting ahead of themselves with several testing assignments coming up in quick succession.

“It’s the first game of the tournament and we’re playing the number two team in the world on Saturday,” said Townsend referring to Ireland’s visit. “We’re then going to a place where we’ve not won in 20 years [Paris], then playing the number three team in the world [Wales], then going to a place where we haven’t won since 1983 [Twickenham].”

When he puts it like that even the Scotland coach seems to be sliding into the glass half-empty camp.