Darcy Graham slept for most of Tuesday following his first World Cup start in the 34-0 rout of Samoa in steaming hot Kobe, but when he did finally rise from his slumbers he discovered that he had won Borders Sports Personality of the Year.
The 22-year-old wing from Hawick has enjoyed a stunning breakthrough international season, the highlight being his two tries in the unforgettable Calcutta Cup comeback at Twickenham seven months ago, and is delighted to have been recognised by his own people in a public vote before the official ceremony in Selkirk earlier this week.
Dad Ally and mum Leah accepted the prize on his behalf and Graham said: “It was a nice award to wake up to. I had no idea I had won until my mum sent me a text. My parents had to go and collect the award, so they certainly enjoyed their night.”
Graham had his mind on other things before receiving that text from mum and described being in the starting line-up for the crucial Pool A clash as a dream come true, although not without things to improve on.
“It was great to get my first start in the World Cup, it was massive for me but, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too pleased with my own individual performance,” he said.
“I made a couple of mistakes and they ate away at me after the game. During the game I was fine because your focus is on getting the win for the team. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect in every game I play. [Captain] Stuart McInally said to me afterwards that you have to enjoy the times being with Scotland and the wins.”
Graham confesses to being ultra self-critical in his insatiable quest for ever-improvement.
“I’m very hard on myself,” he said. “I made a couple of mistakes, they weren’t major, but I was unhappy nevertheless and I let them eat away at me for a bit.
“I get annoyed with myself because I want to be the best player I can be.
“I expected better of myself the other night. I dropped one ball, I had a try-scoring opportunity off one scrum. I also got tackled into touch when I should maybe have stuck a kick through.
“Like I say, it wasn’t anything major. But I wasn’t happy. A win’s a win though and we now move on to the Russia which is huge for us.”
That honest self-analysis doesn’t lead to him being a tense, uptight character, though; in fact quite the opposite.
“I’m really chilled, I am the kind of guy that takes things in his stride. I wanted to enjoy the occasion,” continued the Edinburgh player. “There was pressure on, of course there was, and under that roof it was pretty hot.
“But honestly, I was chilled before the start of the game. I just wanted to get into it. Nothing ever gets to me. That’s the way I am, that’s the way I have been brought up.
“Greig Laidlaw said to me before the start that it was just another game of rugby and that kind of stuck with me. Greig has been huge and he’s always there to help me. Especially as a Borders boy he has really looked after me.”
With the fairly long gap to that Russia game it has been a few down days for the Scotland squad this week in Kobe, though training for some, physio and recovery sessions, school visits and media duties continue to roll on.
“I slept most of the day [Tuesday],” said Graham. “I struggle to sleep after games, I think I was awake until about 4:30 in the morning.
“You take caffeine and all these supplements and you’re wide awake at silly o’clock. It takes a lot to shut off.”
Wing is clearly Graham’s prime position now, though with his background as full-back with Hawick, Scotland Under-20s and occasionally for Edinburgh, he was asked if he had ever scored a drop goal like the one his fellow Teri, Stuart Hogg, pinged from 40 metres on Monday.
“Never. I’ve never even tried one,” said Graham with a smile “It was a beauty, he absolutely nailed it. I would never even have attempted it.
“He knew straight away it was going over and it’s a huge quality to have that confidence in your locker. He was quite pleased with himself, he’s been buzzing for the past two days.
“It was a hell of a kick. I think it was just spur of the moment for him. We never really spoke about it. You never really do with drop goals, they’re a thing that slipped out the game for a while. He just went for it. He backed himself and it came off, so fair play to him.”
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