Sifting through the wreckage of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup in search of positives is a thankless task, except to say that the more painful the lesson, the less likely anyone will forget it. No-one involved will want a repeat.
Still, if you squinted hard at the action you could just about make out the ghostly impression of the team Scotland wanted to be, attempting to extricate itself from the mire of the team that Scotland had become.
Huw Jones scored two tries, the first of which came from Finn Russell’s trademark bullet fired across the back line, seemingly inviting the right man to pluck the ball from the air and take his chances, which is exactly what Jones did.
Tim Visser looked dangerous on his left wing and even more so when he made a break up the middle of the park inside the final quarter. Had the support kept pace with the big winger, Scotland might even have secured a consolation bonus point.
Scotland’s other score went to Gordon Reid, who came into the starting XV for the Wales match and helped stabilise a shaky scrum. England had the better of the set piece on Saturday, as they did so much else, but most of the problems occurred on Scotland’s tighthead side, with Reid showing up reasonably well against Dan Cole who he knows pretty well by now after facing him three times this season already.
Reid is leaving Glasgow at the end of the season but he will always be a warrior and a proud Scot who sings “Flower of Scotland” like he means it. The big man was hurting more than most after Saturday’s mauling.
“It was hard to take, to be honest,” said Reid. “We travelled to Twickenham with high expectations of achieving something special but we ended up on the end of another beating.
“I don’t think we lost confidence early on. But they came at us in the first ten to 15 minutes. We need to learn to gather our thoughts in those situations, stay calm and play through.
“We never managed to settle and it just felt like they were scoring try after try after try. It was like a snowball effect, they just kept on coming.
“There are times when we need to just slow it down and do what we’re good at, try to counteract them.”
Of course, the other principal positive to take from Saturday is that it will be many a long day before we see Scotland play quite so badly against a team that is playing quite so well.
England have equalled the All Blacks record of 18 consecutive wins and who would bet against them beating that number in Dublin come Saturday? All eyes are focused on that match where Ireland, themselves hurting after losing in Cardiff, will attempt to derail England’s unprecedented second Grand Slam in consecutive years, which would be a first in the Six Nations.
But it’s worth remembering that Scotland can still finish with three wins for only the second time in Six Nations history if they can find a way past Italy next Saturday, as Reid understands.
“It’s important that we don’t let this set everything back. We’ve been on the back of a loss. We need to work on the negatives and do that quickly.
“Italy is a massive game, a must-win game for us. We need to get further up the table. The Calcutta Cup is out of the window now, the Championship is gone, but we can beat Italy and finish higher up.
“If we beat Italy, that’s the best we’ve done for a while in the championship. Three wins, that’s the only thing left to play for. We’ll do what we can to get that.”