Scotland earned all the plaudits on Saturday night but it didn’t stop their players and coaches from an overwhelming feeling of what might have been. Leading England until three minutes to half-time, one of sport’s great shocks was on the cards at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, before four England tries in 13 second-half minutes turned the tide completely, Wayne Bennett’s team winning 38-12.
Scotland prop Luke Douglas summed up the mood of the Bravehearts camp. “It was disappointing in the end. We did a lot of good work in the first half, but just couldn’t stay with them. We were niggling them, you could see their frustration, there was tension at scrums, they were arguing with each other and the crowd was quiet.
“At half time we came off four points down, and we said we’re in a position here, no other fourth team in the Four Nations have ever won a game, and it was disappointing that it slipped away.”
After a magnificent first half performance, Scotland had begun to waver just before captain Danny Brough was sin-binned midway through the second half for holding down Johnny Lomax, a decision many thought unfair. With the Scots down to 12-men, England ran in two more tries to seal victory, before another Scottish revival towards the end.
“I thought Danny being carded was a bit harsh,” acknowledged Douglas, who moves from Gold Coast Titans to St Helens this winter. “They then got a few tries when he was off. They had just started getting their noses in front and Broughie was off, but we needed to play smarter and kick it out and try to take some time off the clock. But unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.
“We knew they would come out and play better, but we just couldn’t handle them. McGillvary and Hall got them off to a great start, and then losing Broughie and a few of the boys playing busted meant we were out of it.”
Scotland returned to training in Preston on Monday morning with several players tending to injuries, intent on being fit for Friday’s final Four Nations showdown with New Zealand at Workington.
“We’ll regroup now,” said Douglas, who wore the BBC player-mic during the England game, entertaining the peak-time audience of 1.6 million viewers on BBC2. “There are a few things to work on, and get ready for New Zealand. We are hoping for a few supporters to come down from Scotland to Cumbria. I enjoyed my time there last time. The Cumbrian crowd really got behind us, and it’s a great little town. We got amongst the community last time, and hopefully they can get behind us again.”
Saturday was a night of firsts for Scotland Rugby League, who have only existed for 22 years. It was the first time they have played England at senior level, the first time they had played on national terrestrial television, and the 21,009 attendance was the largest to see a Scotland international. The most points Scotland have ever conceded was in a 62-24 hammering by England’s second team in 2012. They have come a long way since then.
“A lot of people questioned our right to be in the Four Nations,” declared Douglas. “We won it (European Championship) with a lot of guys that didn’t play today. But we are delighted to be here and play for our team and our heritage.”