Ah the start of the 6 Nations! The coming together of the fans before the match. The characters, the sights, the bonhomie and the sharing of a drink. The collective hopes and fears of neighbours and allies. Scottish hopes lasted barely half-an-hour as Mathieu Bastareaud punctured the Scottish line twice in the opening half to set 20,000 Frenchmen crowing. If you don't tackle him within three paces of him receiving the ball it takes ten yards at least in which to bring him down.
I was expecting more from Andy Robinson's re-galvanised side. With "Mossie" Paterson restored to the starting 15 and some promise from the backs, we thought we were in with a shout. Robinson was keen to point out some tactical weaknesses that have restricted Scotland's ambitions in recent years. Our angle of attack was invariably too flat and combined with inferior handling, we were failing create the try-scoring points damage that wins rugby matches. He was spot on with this assessment and I had hopes that with Morrison, Lamont and the Evans brothers, we might also have the personnel equipped to take advantage of a tactical re-training. Trouble was, it looked the same. Time and again the ball hurtled from one side of the pitch to the other in an ever-flattening Scotland line with the speed of the pass having to increase with each player to order to avoid throwing it forward or being intercepted. Only twice did we break the French line and create any chaos but on both occasions we were 60 yards from the try-line and it was expecting too much for a breakaway score.
Up front we struggled to hold the more dominant French pack but we did at least manage to keep it together. Nathan Hines avoided being sin-binned which is always a bonus although that makes him favourite to spend time on the touch-line in Cardiff on Saturday. Kellock and Beattie had good games but it looked tough in the front row. With substitutions from both sides entering the fray towards the end of the match, home fans were treated to the sight of Richie Gray making his 6 nations debut (I think). At 6 foot 10 inches and 18 stones, with a mop of blond hair, he makes an instant impression. Unfortunately, he can't jump and is historically slow. I hope I am wrong here but he doesn't look like the future of Scottish rugby to me.
So, another disappointment for an Addicks fan with too many of those recently. My Uncle's new jag broke down en route to Edinburgh, which meant he missed the match and I had the added expense of purchasing another match ticket from a tout as the inept Scottish Rugby Union have a policy of not selling tickets on matchdays. You couldn't make it up anywhere else, but this lot are absolutely clueless and make the English FA look like a model of dynamism embued with common sense.
Looking on the bright side, I should get a footballing trip in the next 18 months to the reigning European Champions and perhaps another visit to Prague or Vilnius to watch my country struggling to qualify for Poland 2012.