Heading to the BT Murrayfield stadium on a glorious Sunday morning, hopes were high that Scotland could exorcise their demons of a year ago., writes Calum Corral.

Heading to the BT Murrayfield stadium on a glorious Sunday morning, hopes were high that Scotland could exorcise their demons of a year ago., writes Calum Corral.

There was a real sense of optimisim in the air that Vern Cotter’s men could vanquish the memories from the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when the Scots suffered a brutal demolition job.

This year, the RBS Six Nations had opened with a hard fought but ultimately fruitless defeat to the French, as all thoughts turned to the first home game of the campaign.

I was given the opportunity thanks to Dominic McKay of Largs, who is Director of Commercial Operations, Communications and Public Affairs, at Scottish Rugby, and it was a pulsating match which lived up to the billing.

It was difficult not to feel a sense of excitement, as tens of thousands milled outside in the sunshine, with live music, fantastic food and drink facilities, and a great camaraderie between both supports contributing to a very special atmosphere.

There is no doubt about it that Scottish Rugby has stepped up its game considerably, and heading through to the capital to watch the national side is now a full day experience, and I was given a full tour of the impressive stadium, and even walked out on the hallowed turf, as the BBC were broadcasting live.

The singing of the national anthems was a spinetingling experience, and fireworks sparkled all round the stadium, as Scotland made an explosive start.

Despite conceding an early penalty, the Scots, stunned the Welsh with their early running and produced a try of extraordinary quality. The crowd noise escalated to new heights as Stuart Hogg jumped to the turf with purpose.

Captain Greig Laidlaw’s conversion brought more resounding cheers. A Laidlaw penalty after 17 minutes added further fuel to the fire, and glancing at the scoreline of 10-3 to Scotland, suddenly the belief swelled in every Scotland supporter’s heart that this was going to be our day.

However, the Welsh refused to wilt, and piled forward in numbers and pierced the Scottish rearguard. Three penalties from Leigh Halfpenny meant the Scots were suddenly clinging on to a narrow 10-9 lead on 31 minutes, and a Rhys Webb try, and a conversion, tilted the balance in the favour of the Welsh 16-10.

This was a topsy-turvy first half, but the Scots scored another penalty, to reduce the deficit to only three at the start of the second half.

But the Welsh went on to dominate after that, and the deficit was to widen significantly to 16-26, but the Scots put in a heroic final ten minutes as they threw everything into attack, but were denied by the Welsh, time and again.

But the ‘white line fever’ was not to continue, and the Scots pushed on, and Jon Welsh notched a try on 79 minutes, and 17 seconds, followed by Laidlaw’s conversion.

The full-time whistle blew for full-time early to the astonishment all around, and the Welsh emerged victorious 26-23, and the post mortem afterwards centred on the referee ruling out a Scottish try.

It was a revealing press conference as coach Vern Cotter, from New Zealand, was put under pressure to slam the refereeing performance.

But Cotter refused to blame the officials, and instead chose to examine his own team’s shortcomings.

“It’s reasonably hard to take,” Cotter surmised, “and we need to improve our high ball receptions, but the reality is we played some good rugby at times, and we have to maintain our attacking philisophy.” And while the press conference had a sombre atmosphere, Cotter did prompt a laugh with a dry remark as journalists persisted with their line on the poor refereeing.

Cotter responded: “We communicate with the officials throughout the game - and we will send a message through to the referees that will help them with the game!” I was intrigued to note on Twitter afterwards that there was bickering between journalists over whether it was another false dawn, or whether the match brought about genuine hope that the Scots were turning the corner.

Having watched and enjoyed the thrills, it was a fantastic day at the rugby. There were many disappointed souls afterwards, but it was vast improvement for Scotland compared to last year’s result against the Welsh. There were some missed opportunities, but Welsh edged it in fairness.

I thought it was most certainly a case of ‘Onwards and upwards’ and the Scots did look menacing, and raised the roof at times, and weren’t far away from pulling it off.

* COMPETITION ... WIN SIX NATIONS RUGBY TICKETS .... The Largs and Millport News is offering a pair of tickets for Scotland’s forthcoming Six Nations encounter against Italy at the BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 28 February, thanks to Scottish Rugby.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the following question. What is the nationality of Scotland rugby coach Vern Cotter a) Australian b) Austrian c) New Zealander. Please send your answer, and a daytime telephone number, to editorial@largsnews.co.uk marked ‘Six Nations competition’, or by post via one of the blue letter boxes at Morrison’s supermarket customer services desk, Mills’ Dairies in Boyd Street, or Superdrug, or by post to Largs News, 12 Princess Street, KA22 8BP.

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