Captain Jamie Ritchie feels Scotland showed in their narrow defeat by Australia that they are a team now resilient enough to deal with in-game setbacks.
In several games earlier this year, the Scots have had cause to lament the way they wilted in the face of adversity, so one of their main aims in the Autumn Series was to become better at riding out periods of pressure and regaining the upper hand.
On Saturday, they appeared to achieve that to some extent as they overturned a 6-5 half-time deficit to roar into a 15-6 lead. Then when Australia turned the tide and got themselves 16-15 ahead, the Scots still managed to keep themselves in contention and would have won the game if Blair Kinghorn had not kicked his last-gasp penalty from 40 metres agonisingly wide of the posts.
“We talked a lot in the week that there would be moments in the game when we might go behind and be under pressure and we spoke of fighting to get those moments back,” said Ritchie.
A game of small margins, and we come off on the wrong side of the result.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 29, 2022
“I think we did that well throughout the game. At the end we gave ourselves an opportunity to win it, but unfortunately it didn’t go over. I’m proud of the boys and the way they performed. I’m confident we can learn lessons.”
Despite the loss, Ritchie – who co-captained the team once previously against Tonga a year ago – relished leading the team for the first time since succeeding Stuart Hogg as skipper.
“I think it went well,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. I said from the get-go that I didn’t want to change anything. I speak a lot as a player as it is – just maybe people listen more to a captain.
“I enjoyed the experience and I will be looking to get some learnings moving forward.”
Ritchie is adamant his Edinburgh team-mate Kinghorn – who scored a magnificent solo try – should be proud of his performance despite his penalty agony at the end.
“Blair will bounce back, I know he will,” said Ritchie. “It’s important that we get behind him because he did a lot of stuff really well. I back Blair. I’ve seen what he can do week in and week out. I’m confident he will bounce back and be great next week.
“I thought he had an outstanding game all over the park. Then he missed one kick. Everyone makes mistakes and we had opportunities to win the game before that so it shouldn’t have come down to it. I told him to keep his head up and be proud of how he performed.”
Scotland are facing the prospect of losing yet another second-row to injury ahead of Saturday’s Test against Fiji after Sam Skinner was forced off in the first half.
“He had a foot injury,” said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. “He’s in a boot and we don’t know how long that will keep him out.
“We’ve had three second-rows injured since we announced the squad, with Richie Gray and Scott Cummings during the week, and now Sam Skinner.
“Richie Gray should be in full training next week. He’s gone through the protocols up to Friday and let’s hope Sam is available for these games as well.”