500 Miles was fit­ting but Mex­i­can Wave was just too far

Fans who kept the faith af­ter Twick­en­ham de­serve a share of the ap­plause en­joyed by Cot­ter and his play­ers. By Kevin Fer­rie

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 SPORT -

TAK­ING their cue from a tune that has be­come a Mur­ray­field stan­dard, those who wit­nessed first-hand pro­ceed­ings at Twick­en­ham last week­end and were in Ed­in­burgh as Vern Cot­ter com­pleted his re­luc­tant lap of hon­our yes­ter­day, re­ally did show their de­vo­tion.

Ad­mit­tedly, rather than walk­ing, they had made their dis­con­so­late re­turn 500 (well, all right, 400-ish) miles up the road on planes, trains and au­to­mo­biles, but even so on a day when the out­go­ing Scot­land coach paid trib­ute to the char­ac­ter of his play­ers, the sup­port­ers who were there to the end of both of these matches de­served sim­i­lar praise.

They were, of course, very much the mi­nor­ity among those in what was the first-ever sell-out crowd for the visit of the Ital­ians, and for the most part you felt the ma­jor­ity were there for the party rather than to fa­nat­i­cally sup­port their team.

The way at­ten­dances have grown at Mur­ray­field in re­cent years is in it­self some­thing of a phe­nom­e­non given Scot­land’s strug­gles, and that in it­self a trib­ute to those who are de­ter­mined to en­joy them­selves at such events no mat­ter what.

The meth­ods used in seek­ing to do so were rather ir­ri­tat­ingly em­ployed al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter Tim Visser fi­nally in­jected into the pro­ceed­ings with the score that put Scot­land within a try of the bonus point that might have made all the dif­fer­ence in terms of where they fin­ished the cham­pi­onship ta­ble.

There may be times when the Mex­i­can Wave might be jus­ti­fi­able, but surely not at that stage. For all that Scot­land were al­ready very much on top, the crowd did not un­til then

have much to get ex­cited about. Some 24 min­utes elapsed be­fore a de­cent, if unin­spired, chant of “Scot­land, Scot­land … ” broke out.

To make mat­ters worse the player who has done most to in­ject an at­tack­ing threat into Scot­land’s mid­field, Huw Jones, hob­bled off.

How­ever al­most im­me­di­ately after­wards, the home sup­port were given some­thing to cheer about with the first score from Finn Rus­sell.

In keep­ing with the na­ture of the game the tries that then got Scot­land within bonus point range both in­volved the ball be­ing gud­dled be­hind the Ital­ian line be­fore Matt Scott and Visser touched down. The fourth, Tommy Sey­mour, owed rather more to the im­proved creativ­ity that has cer­tainly been a fea­ture of the cul­tural change the New Zealan­der has sought to bring about.

To re­spond as they did to last week­end’s maul­ing was also a trib­ute to a coach who is widely be­lieved to have been cru­elly treated by his em­ploy­ers and he seemed to shed a tear or two be­fore fol­low­ing his men around the pitch.

A cam­paign in which more matches have been won than lost is progress, but even if he would not say so, for Cot­ter the jour­ney he un­der­took in seek­ing to turn peren­nial losers into win­ners will for­ever be un­fin­ished.

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