A precious win - a nagging feeling of loss

Matt Williams had already turned to a Blackadder for help, Todd of that particular surname having assisted him with his forwards last year. Perhaps it was with a cunning plan in mind, then, that Scotland's head coach should look towards a son of Hartlepool to get the growing monkey off his back.

Matt Williams had already turned to a Blackadder for help, Todd of that particular surname having assisted him with his forwards last year. Perhaps it was with a cunning plan in mind, then, that Scotland's head coach should look towards a son of Hartlepool to get the growing monkey off his back.

Hartlepudlains are also known as monkey-hangers, in recognition of the legend of the creature that swam ashore from a French shipwreck, during Napoleonic times, and was summarily strung up, upon suspicion of being a hirsute Gallic spy.

Simon Webster was born and raised in Hartlepool, which may or may not have influenced Williams' thinking in drafting the Edinburgh wing into his starting XV at Murrayfield yesterday with a view to removing the burden of pressure and negativity that has been mounting on the back of the Scotland coach.

Without a win at Murrayfield in his 16 months in the post, without a win after seven matches in the Six Nations, and with the prospect looming of a first back-to-back Caledonian whitewash in the championship for 51 years, Williams was staring at the possibility of being hung out to dry as he took his seat in the West Stand at 1.50pm. By 3.40pm the Sydneysider had succeeded in slipping free.

Or rather the Azzurri had generously levered him off the hook. Before kick-off the Italians had failed to keep their No 3 shirt on its peg in the visitors' dressing room, necessitating Leandro Castrogiovanni's appearance in the No 17 jersey. And with all bar two of the six kicks they aimed at the posts missing, they contrived to let a first championship win on the road go similarly AWOL.

John Kirwan presumably felt like kicking himself as the game drifted away from his team in the second half. He probably would have done a more accurate job of it than either Roland de Marigny or Luciano Orquera. Between them, the Bangor old boy and the fly-half from Cordoba missed three eminently potable penalties and a dropped goal as Scotland stood marooned in their own half for 53 minutes, as becalmed as the Ancient Mariner's cursed vessel.

In their anaemic change shirts, Williams' men looked like a whitewash waiting to happen. "A rugby ball is like a bar of gold and we must treat it accordingly," the Australian had written in his programme notes. When his players managed to get the ball in their hands, though, they treated it like a spelk-ridden wooden spoon.

Webster saw it sparingly and got no farther with it than the opposition 10-metre line. Unlike Hadrian's legions, these Italians had no need to construct a grand defensive wall to keep out the Scots. Instead, it was the boot of Chris Paterson that came to Scotland's - and Williams' - rescue. The Edinburgh full-back kicked like a mule: six place kicks out of six, from a full range of angles and distances. Each one rubbed salt into the wounds of Kirwan, a one-time butcher.

As a life-long teetotaller, Paterson was a suitable match winner. It was such a sobering, sterile contest it was unworthy of being a wooden-spoon decider. A plastic spoon, perhaps.

Not that Williams could have cared. "As Moses said, when he parted the Red Sea, that will give them [the Scotland players] a lot of confidence," he responded in the interview room later, when the sterility of the play and the sustained booing by the crowd were mentioned. "We just needed to kick more points than the opposition and we did that."

All of which left poor Kirwan still without a win at Murrayfield. He never got the chance to play here as an All Black wing, having been deemed too young for the tour of 1983 and too old for the 1993 trip. He has lost in Edinburgh three times as coach of Italy and now needs to find a solution to what he acknowledges as "the mental problems" of his place kickers.

Perhaps he could borrow Dr Tony Westerby, the sports psychologist who helped put Scotland in a winning frame of mind yesterday. It was all so different in Kirwan's playing days. All it took back then was a little pre-match dance, and an all black cloak of invincibility.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn