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
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.