For the second Six Nations in a row, Scotland’s championship got off to the perfect start. Gregor Townsend’s men dramatically beat their bitter rivals England 20-17 at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium for a rare retention of the Calcutta Cup and to keep a firm grip on all the bragging rights over their old foes that comes with that.
Yet, just as it unfolded for the Scots 12 months prior, all of Townsend’s player’s hard work to overcome the fierce challenge of Eddie Jones’ side was undone in Round 2 — coming up short against Wales and once again becoming unfavourable in the rugby union betting markets.
The narrow 25-24 defeat at home last season would have been softened somewhat as Wayne Pivac’s side went on to shock victory in the Six Nations, but there were no excuses this year. This was an out-of-sorts Welsh side, one with an injury list as long as your arm and very little confidence.
Scotland should have brushed them aside in Cardiff, just like Ireland did in week one, and headed into the halfway stage with two wins from two. Instead, Wales won 20-17 at the Millennium Stadium in what turned out to be their only victory of the entire championship — defeat to Italy on the final weekend proving how weak this Welsh team really was this year.
With an evitable defeat to France back in Edinburgh, Scotland’s Six Nations was all but over. Their fast start had fizzled out for the second successive year and any slight glimmer of hope of winning their first title since 1999, when the tournament still only had five participants, was once again dashed.
A 33-22 victory over Italy in a thrilling game at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, where Scotland scored an impressive five tries against gli Azzurri, left people with plenty of what ifs.
What if Scotland had beaten Wales as expected earlier in the tournament? They would’ve been heading to Dublin to take on Ireland with just one defeat, a crack at the Triple Crown and with their championship chances still alive — albeit even more slender as their opposition’s hopes with England needing to beat France and Scotland needing a win over Ireland.
Townsend’s men proved no match for Andy Farrell’s side anyway, with Ireland breezing to a 26-5 victory over Scotland and securing their first Triple Crown since their 2018 Six Nations triumph. England did the Boys in Green no favours either, losing to France 25-13 in Paris.
With two victories and three defeats, Scotland had to settle for fourth — behind England in third only based on points difference, not that that is much of a consolation. When they beat Jones’ side on the opening weekend, spirits were high, but in the end, it turned out to be one of the Scots’ worst Six Nations in years.
They managed three victories in each of the last two renewals of the tournament, but this time out, they only managed two wins. Not only that, their tries conceded (15) is up by 10 from the 2020 edition (five) and five from last year’s championship (10).
The win over England perhaps only briefly glossed over the fact that this is a side in serious decline and the manner in which their fire burned out over the course of the Six Nations could be a sign of things to come over the next couple of years. Townsend certainly has a lot to think about after yet another poor showing!