Taking their cue from the tune that has become a Murrayfield standard, those who both witnessed first hand proceedings at Twickenham the previous Saturday and were still around as Vern Cotter completed his reluctant lap of honour really have shown their devotion.
Admittedly, rather than walking it, they had made their disconsolate return on planes, trains and automobiles carried them the 500, (well, all right, 400-ish) miles up the road, but even so on a day when out-going Scotland coach Vern Cotter paid tribute to the character of his players, the same applied to those supporters who were there to the very end of both these matches.
They were, of course, very much the minority amongst those in what was the first ever sell out crowd for the visit of the Italians and for the most part the atmosphere was rather more in keeping with a sense that the majority were there for the party rather than to fanatically support their team.
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The way attendances have grown at Murrayfield in recent years is in itself something of a phenomenon given Scotland’s struggles which is 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 drama was finally injected into proceedings with Tim Visser’s try, which put Scotland within a try of securing the bonus point that could make all the difference in terms of where they finished the championship. Perhaps it was a day when that symptom of bored indifference among sporting audiences, the ‘Mexican wave’ could be justified, but surely not at that stage.
For all that Scotland were already very much on top, events on the pitch had not, prior to that, given them too much opportunity for involvement, most particularly during a scoreless opening quarter which was everything that we have come to expect of this particular fixture.
The conditions in those early stages did not help, testing the skill sets of two sides that had every reason to come into the match low on confidence, Italy facing a second successive championship ‘whitewash’ while their opponents were looking to recover from that record humbling in London.
Some 24 minutes had elapsed before a decent, if uninspired chant of ‘Scotland, Scotland…” was mustered, the Italians in the house responding in a way that indicates that their contribution to the championship off the field has grown rather more healthily than that on it as a decent response of “Italia, Italia…” emerged from the East Stand.
To make matters worse the player who has done most to inject an attacking threat into Scotland’s midfield, Huw Jones, then hobbled off to the warm applause that his two tries on debut at Murrayfield and matching brace of consolation tries at Twickenham had earned him. However almost immediately afterwards, the home support was given something to cheer about properly with the first score from Finn Russell, the stand off, who has more reason than most to thank the departing head coach and did more than most to ensure that he left as a winner earning his latest man of the match award.
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, however Tommy Seymour’s vital fourth 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, as illustrated by a record number of tries having been scored in this campaign.
To respond as they did to last weekend’s mauling was also, for all his determination to divert as much of the credit as he could to the players, a tribute to a coach who is widely believed to have been cruelly treated by his employers and he appeared to shed a tear or two before following his men around the pitch.
Asked to reflect on his time in charge he was more than a little bit uncomfortable, but that may also be attributable to coming from a country that is not used to getting excited about pursuing a second place finish on a rugby field.
A campaign in which more matches have been won than lost represented 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.