It wasn’t the homecoming that Edinburgh’s prodigal son would have wanted. Matt Scott did some good things and some bad in Friday’s Challenge Cup final. He tackled a Stade Francais lock and picked his pocket in one memorable second-half highlight but Scott also kicked the ball away too often and he coughed up three points for not rolling away at one breakdown in the first 40. It was the former Edinburgh favourite’s second game back after a seven week lay off and he will only get better.
The match was eventually decided by a moment of magic from a No.13 but sadly he wasn’t sporting Gloucester’s distinctive cherry and white markings. Instead the brilliance came from Geoffrey Doumayrou as the Paris centre stepped inside one defender before leaving everyone trailing in his wake as he took off like a scalded cat to score the telling try.
Oh, and if you imagine that losing the Challenge Cup final is, you know, not really so bad, then listen to what Scott has to say about it.
“It was really frustrating, probably one of the toughest losses I’ve had, if I’m honest. I really wanted to win this.
“With the season we’ve had, it was really important for us to win this game and give ourselves a chance to get into the top-tier trophy next year and also win a trophy.
“You don’t get a chance very often to win trophies, it’s few and far between, so we’re all absolutely gutted to let the chance slip.”
It was a mixed blessing for the Scotland centre who can now join the Scotland training camp before the summer tour to Singapore, Sydney and Suva. Against that, he was one of the few players who might have benefited from a little more time in the saddle after missing seven weeks with a hamstring tear that occurred against Italy.
It’s been an odd sort of season for Scott. Recalled to the Scotland team but only after Mark Bennett was injured against England, he made the match day squad to play Italy but only got on to the pitch after Huw Jones left it. Scott then scored a try only to damage that hamstring and hobble off five minutes from time. It was his first appearance for Scotland since June of 2016 and it lasted just 49 minutes.
“From a personal point of view, it was a win-win situation,” says Scott.
“If we got to the [Champions Cup] play-offs, I could have got a couple more games under my belt. If not, having spoken to Gregor on the phone, it would be good to get straight into the Scotland mix starting from this Wednesday.
“I don’t think I’m quite up to the level I was earlier in the season. I’ve had seven weeks out and not much training. My first rugby session was a week last Tuesday then I played on the Saturday against Exeter which is a tough game, then a cup final.
“I probably could have done with as many games as possible, but training with Scotland is always an intense environment, so that will do me the world of good.”
Scott will find the Scotland squad a much-changed place from the one that he first broke into back in 2012. His first Test start came in Australia, a match Scotland won, so perhaps the Scots returning down under this summer is a good sign although he will find competition for places a lot harder than when he was starting out.
Even in the enforced absence of Bennett and Jones, the Gloucester man is not guaranteed a starting spot in the Tests.
Duncan Taylor, who started on Saracens’ bench yesterday afternoon, will travel after an injury ravaged season. Alex Dunbar will be keen to recover his lost form and Nick Grigg is Townsend’s wild card, a relative unknown although not to his rivals.
“He’s been really, really good,” says Scott of the pint sized Kiwi centre. “He breaks the gain line a lot and seems like a really sharp player. A few years ago we would have been craving a few more guys like that and now we’ve got a lot of them, so every time you get picked in the Scotland squad it’s so precious.
“Earlier in my career, there wasn’t much competition at centre and I was thrown in as a young guy not having had much pro experience. Now it’s almost overcrowded, that area. Any time you get the chance to pull on the shirt, it’s so special.”