Wing Sean Maitland admitted Scotland’s backs had let down the team by not rewarding a huge forwards effort in Dublin with the tries which could have changed the complexion of the game.
Centre Huw Jones and full-back Stuart Hogg both failed to make simple final passes which would have brought certain scores and kept Scotland firmly in a match which instead slipped away to a 28-8 defeat.
“Obviously Shuggy [Jones] his form has been first class,” said Maitland. “And Hoggy, you know what you are going to get from him.
“But they’re massively disappointed. You could tell. The whole back division was massively disappointed.
“How we created, there is some optimism there. And those guys are quality players – I’m sure they’ll bounce back. They will work out this week and hopefully create more opportunities next game.”
Maitland said the review process at the start of this week will involve a few cringes and no sugar-coating that, with more clinical finishing, it could have been a much different story against the now Grand Slam-chasing champions.
“Of course we’re hard on ourselves,” said the Saracens man. “That’s what we demand of each other.
“That’s what we demanded of ourselves ahead of Ireland. We weren’t complacent. Obviously coming off a massive, massive win against England, we still set the bar high.
“That’s what we need to do, if we’re to keep progressing – because we know where this team can eventually go.
“You’ve probably heard it before, from the coach. But, when you play away, you have to take your opportunities.
“We probably left a good three tries – maybe even four – out there. The young fella [Blair Kinghorn, who did get Scotland’s only try] could have had a hat-trick. But you’ve got to take these opportunities when you create them.
“The onus is on the backs. We need to step up and finish those opportunities. It’s about skills under pressure. And that comes from preparing right.”
Maitland was at a loss to explain how such gilt-edged opportunities had gone abegging. “I thought we had a great week,” he said. “But these things happen. You just have to take it.
“We prepared really well during the week – and Gregor always puts our skills under pressure, especially when we’re fatigued. Those are the things we still need to massively improve on next week [against Italy].”
One of many Scotland players who could hold their head up high after the game was flanker Hamish Watson, who clearly relished the battle with the illustrious Irish back row of Peter O’Mahony, Dan Leavy and CJ Stander.
“It’s really frustrating. We did alright out there but there were too many small errors that crept in at the wrong time,” said the Edinburgh forward. “We created a lot of chances. It was very different to the Wales game because we were right in it and making good line breaks and opportunities but not finishing them off. That cost us.”
When it was suggested that some of the errors were not small but quite major ones at this level of the game, Watson was inclined to agree.
“Whopping errors,” he said. “In fact we made the line breaks. But it was in the exit zone as well – giving them easy exits and giving away silly penalties there. That took the pressure off them.
“The big errors were annoying.”
With the championship secured and a possible Grand Slam to come, Ireland are clearly the team to aspire to in northern hemisphere rugby right now, but Watson insisted Scotland will do it their way as they strive to close the gap before the two nations meet in next year’s World Cup.
“We have a very different playing style to Ireland,” he said. “That works for them, they are the No 3 team in the world. They are a great team and although our styles are different there are definitely things we can look at and put into our game.
“Their composure when they exit, not rushing to exit but doing it on their own terms. Small stuff like that.”
In the meantime, Watson will be resting up a battered body before preparing in earnest for Rome.
“It was a very physical game [on Saturday],” he said. “It was tough and there are a few sore bodies now. You know what Ireland are going to do because they are a very physical team and they did that part of the game really well.
“We have to recover now for a big game next week in Italy.”