Darcy Graham and Ange Capuozzo strike a blow for the Six Nations wee men
The Edinburgh flyer was one of only two Scotland men to play in every minute of every game - Stuart Hogg was the other - and he contributed two tries, against Wales and Italy, as well as having a major role in the penalty try which turned the game against England.
If Duhan van der Merwe was the breakout start of last season’s campaign for Gregor Townsend’s side, Graham quietly assumed the mantle of chief attacking threat this time around.
His involvement in last weekend’s “breach of team protocols” notwithstanding, Graham is entitled to feel pleased with his contribution to a campaign which started promisingly with the win over Eddie Jones’ side but came off the rails in Cardiff.
Back to back losses to Wales and France quashed hopes of a title challenge but there was at least a bonus point win over Italy in Rome before the 26-5 defeat in Dublin on Saturday night.
Playing on the opposite wing in the final two matches, Kyle Steyn got a first hand account of how effective Graham can be.
“Darcy had a smashing tournament,” said the Glasgow winger. “And someone like me has certainly felt that. First up I compete with Darcy for a position, so the way he played in those first two Tests, especially the way he finished against Wales, epitomises his attitude.
“You can see that from what he does with what he has – he's a small man with a lion heart. So I'm stoked for him with the tournament he's had.”
The performances during the Six Nations of Graham and Italy’s diminutive full-back Ange Capuozzo struck a blow for the wee men, their elusive running causing all sorts of problems for rival defences.
Capuozzo’s two late tries against Scotland served notice of his abilities and the Grenoble player set up Edoardo Padovani’s late score in the stunning win over Wales in Cardiff on Saturday with a searing break and audacious sidestep.
The victory was Italy’s first after 36 straight defeats in the Six Nations and lent a degree of perspective to Scotland’s bonus point win in Rome seven days earlier. Much was made of the Scots’ flat last 20 minutes but Steyn felt the performance as a whole at the Stadio Olimpico was worthy of praise.
“It never really looked that bad,” he insisted. “Maybe you guys thought it was that bad, but we didn't. We choose to focus on ourselves and we knew the last 20 minutes in Rome weren't good enough and not up to the standards that we set ourselves.
“We had high expectations of ourselves and high standards coming to Dublin, and weren't as good as we would have liked.”
The Ireland game proved a significant step up in class for the Scots and although they started brightly the hosts were too strong.
“I think there is a feeling of frustration because of all the effort that has gone in from the boys and behind the scenes,” said Steyn as he reflected on the championship. “Our tournament was summed up in Saturday's game in that we've been really good in patches but just haven't backed it up as consistently as we would have liked.”
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