I HAVE never been so tense before a Scotland game than I was for the match against Argentina in the “Cake Tin” ground at Wellington.
It was a knock-out game in all but name, despite being a pool match. Simply put, we needed to beat Argentina to make the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Yes, we could still qualify if we lost the match, but the mathematics involved in that would make it unlikely.
Heartbreak for Scotland then as they went down 13-12 after being in control of the game for most of the match.
No team came close to scoring any tries in the first 72 minutes and it was always going to be a tight match.
The conditions were dreadful – it never stopped raining from start to finish.
What there was, though, was a crowd of 29,000 who were lopsided in favour of the Pumas.
They came here to party and covered the entire far side of the ground with Argentine flags and banners. It really did feel like a home game for them.
The game itself was not a spectacle. It was all-out war, and because of a heady cocktail of weather and tension, was riddled with errors. Scotland made a lot, but Argentina made more. We all had chances to score penalties and drop goals and there were a number of “what if” moments.
With eight minutes to go Scotland looked set for victory. They led 12-6 thanks to penalties by Chris Paterson and Ruaridh Jackson and drop goals by Jackson and Dan Parks.
But a moment of madness let in Argentina for the softest of tries.
Our defence, which had been immense all game, let in Amorosino for the only touchdown of the match. Contepomi calmly slotted the conversion and the Pumas held on to win.
We can still qualify by beating England with a bonus point and hope that the Auld Enemy don’t get a losing bonus point in the same game.
That would send the English home. There are other permutations, but more unlikely. Huge disappointment, then, in Wellington, but we must dust ourselves down and head for Auckland to give it our best shot on Saturday.
There will be plenty of people who criticise Scotland for the way they play their rugby, not scoring many tries, keeping it tight and building their success on defence and spoiling tactics.
It may not be champagne rugby, but we have to diffuse the opposition and to a certain extent out here we have done that.
It’s not pretty, but it can be effective and I think England will find it hard to score against the Scots.
That is the key for this Saturday, but there is the added spice that it would do our cause the world of good if we scored four tries against the Auld Enemy.
But, no matter which way I look at it, I cannot see that happening.
I hope that I am proved wrong – when our backs are against the wall we can be very dangerous. We will see.