Gregor Townsend came to the defence of Stuart Hogg after the Scotland captain’s second costly error in as many games helped prove decisive in a 13-6 Calcutta Cup defeat by England at Murrayfield on Saturday.
With the match all square at 3-3, full-back Hogg fumbled an England kick ahead over his own try-line.
That led to a five-metre scrum from which England replacement prop Ellis Genge was driven over for the only try of the match 10 minutes from time.
Hogg’s latest mistake came just a week after he squandered what appeared a certain try by dropping the ball over Ireland’s goal-line during the Scots’ tournament-opening 19-12 loss in Dublin.
Townsend, however, refused to pin the blame for Scotland’s first defeat by England in three years on Hogg following a match played in atrocious conditions as Storm Ciara lashed Murrayfield.
“There was about 40 or 50 errors out there today,” Townsend told reporters.
“Stuart was trying to let the ball go over the try line and it just didn’t bounce up.
“If it had bounced over, we’d have had a 22 drop out and not a scrum-five.”
Former playmaker Townsend, who was himself often described as “mercurial” during his Scotland career, added: “So Stuart was an inch or two away from making a brilliant decision.
“Some of his play was excellent, it’s very tough to play in those conditions and there will be a lot of mistakes, from both sides.”
Yet for all Townsend’s sympathy, the 27-year-old Hogg — who now plays his club rugby in England for Exeter — again took personal responsibility for a defeat that left Scotland with a played two, lost two record in this Six Nations.
“Devastated,” said Hogg. “Again, it was a huge chance for us to exit and get down the right end.
“Unfortunately the ball just didn’t sit up and it was tough to take.
“I put the boys under a wee bit of pressure and, unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get out of it.
“I’ll take that on my shoulders, take it on the chin and be in a position to say I made a mistake… Unfortunately I made a mistake — and these things cost us.”
Scotland played with the wind behind them in the first half yet still turned round 3-0 down thanks to a penalty England captain Owen Farrell.
They were also repeatedly turned over by a new-look England pack, with coach Eddie Jones making changes after the World Cup finalists’ 24-17 defeat by France in Paris.
“It was really tough out there,” said Hogg. “The wind and the rain, it wasn’t ideal conditions. But we had to adapt. Sometimes we did. Sometimes we struggled.
“But credit to England, they executed their kicking game very well.”