Ally Dickinson summed up a 15-year Scottish rugby high in the 41-31 defeat of Argentina at BT Murrayfield by insisting he had never known anything like it in his career.
The 37-times-capped Edinburgh prop forward was at the heart of a display which yielded five tries against current top-ten opposition for the first time since France were routed 36-22 in Paris in 1999. And after the dust had settled, Dickinson said: “That is as good as it has ever been for me in a Scotland jersey.
“The sense of energy particularly from the new guys was just tremendous.”
The vigour and imagination shown by new coach Vern Cotter’s team made a mockery of the fact this was actually their first Murrayfield appearance since being humiliated 51-3 by Wales at the end of this year’s Six Nations Championship.
Since then, the Scots have won four from five and the transformation was perhaps best seen by the way the pack knocked back opponents who, in their previous outing, had defeated twice world champions, Australia.
Each member of the back-three grabbed a try, demonstrating that the ball could be successfully spun wide as well and Dickinson said: “We managed to give our backs some good ball and they were really effective.
“It’s nice to get up from a scrum with go forward and the line outs, with young Jonny Gray calling the moves, reflected the hard work that had been put in there.”
Ironically, Scotland conceded the opening try just 97 seconds in. “Especially in the first half we played really well. We just wanted to go out there and have a go. I think we did that,” added Dickinson. “It was a bit of a blow to lose an early try, but that was weird with a lucky bounce and a break-away.
“But we didn’t panic, managed to get up to the other end and get a couple of scores.
“We haven’t really been together since this summer’s disjointed tour when guys were coming and going. But the character of the guys meant we gelled very well in spite of that.
“Skipper Greig Laidlaw has to take a lot of credit, too. Greig was great, a real leader, a real warrior who the boys follow.
“I don’t know how many man-of-the-match performances he’s already had down south with Gloucester this season but he’s been class for them as well.”
If Laidlaw was the stand-out performer with his sharp breaks and extraordinary vision, then plenty of others were close behind.
For example, Richie Gray carried ball superbly and smashed Argentinians in the tackle, while Blair Cowan was a real find at No.8 with hooker Ross Ford returning to his best.
Dickinson, too, had easily his finest game for Scotland, being secure in the tackle and rumbustious in the loose in a throwback to when he arrived on the club scene with Edinburgh before stints down south.
“It did feel a bit like going back to my younger days in the loose,” admitted the 31-year-old. “I just wanted to get ball in my hands and have a few rumbles.”
All this was achieved without neglecting primary chores and for a prop to get up with the outside backs and come within a forward pass of sending winger Sean Maitland clear epitomised the dynamic off-loading style being cultivated.
“At half-time we were 14 points up and the dressing room chat was for more of the same. Unfortunately they got a couple of soft tries which we are disappointed about and if the game got a bit bogged down all referees are still coming to terms with new scrum laws regarding binding and going in early, so inevitably there were re-sets.
“Argentina were still a great test in that department and we handled ourselves well.
“Everybody is very grounded, though, as we have to be with the world champion New Zealanders coming this Saturday,” said Dickinson, who returned to Edinburgh last season.
Indeed, not to rain on Scotland’s parade, but they did demolish Japan at the start of the last viagogo Autumn international series before immediately going down 28-0 to South Africa.
Also, Scotland played a quarter of the game a man short, with Rob Harley and Jim Hamilton spending time in the sin-bin, as did the Pumas’ Juan Imhoff.
“We need to be ruthless for the whole 80 minutes and it was not a complete performance by any means, but a good start,” admitted Dickinson.
“We just wanted to go out and prove to the Scottish public (a record attendance of 36,764 for a home clash with Argentina) that we really care about playing for Scotland and that we can be relied on to battle hard.
“We are a tight-knit bunch and the type of attacking rugby being played by Glasgow was taken forward through some of the combinations we used.”
There were a total of ten Glasgow players in the starting line-up and Dickinson said, tongue-in-cheek: “A few of us from other random clubs were thrown in as well.
“Seriously, we regard ourselves as having no superstars and it is always about staying humble, rising again and grinding things out regardless of where we are playing club rugby.
“There’s still plenty to work on as if the fact the world champions are next up wasn’t enough reason to keep us grounded.”
Those who switched on, saw Scotland leak an early try and switched off again thinking it was all a case of business as usual under new coach Cotter were the big losers.
For once Scotland were able to capitalise on pressure instead of hammering away at an opponents’ try-line to no avail only to see them score at the other end.
The opening try was pure smash-and-grab, with the covering Tommy Seymour looking as though he was obstructed in trying to get to scorer Javier Ortega Desio.
Sanchez converted, but within five minutes Richie Gray had forced his way over for his second Test try with Laidlaw converting.
Sanchez added a penalty, but in a fairytale twist Scotland gained a lead that was never to be remotely threatened when the younger Gray brother, Jonny, crossed in the opposite corner.
Laidlaw’s conversion took him past Dan Parks as fourth-top Scotland scorer in history, but that was only a prelude to the scrum half’s break which saw him find Sean Maitland in space for try No.3.
A penalty brought down the curtain on as good a half of rugby has Murrayfield has witnessed in years, but still Laidlaw’s virtuoso act continued as he selflessly sent in Stuart Hogg for his seventh try in 25 outings.
A conversion and penalty saw Laidlaw overhaul Andy Irvine’s 273 points and move into third place in the all-time list and that was the end of his personal Puma pummelling.
After Argentina had hit back with a penalty try for disrupting a scrum, sub Duncan Weir supplied the extras following a Tommy Seymour intercept try.
Wholesale substitutions disrupted the flow down the home straight and two late tries by replacement scrum half Tomas Cubelli meant Argentina were able to put some gloss on what was, for them, a surprisingly flat display.
Take nothing away from the Scots though, whose performance might even ensure a full house when they try to make history by beating New Zealand for the first time in 30 attempts this weekend.
Scotland: Tries: R Gray, J Gray, Maitland, Hogg, Seymour. Conversions: Laidlaw (4), Weir. Penalties: Laidlaw (2).
Argentina: Tries: Cubelli (2), Ortega Desio, Penalty try. Conversions: Sanchez, Hernandez (3). Penalty: Sanchez.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell (all Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester), captain; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (both Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Glasgow Warriors), Richie Gray (Castres), Jonny Gray, Rob Harley (both Glasgow Warriors), Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors), Blair Cowan (London Irish). Substitutes: Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons) for Ford (63 mins), Gordon Reid (Glasgow Warriors) for Dickinson (68 mins), Geoff Cross (London Irish) for Murray (70 mins), Jim Hamilton (Saracens) for Richie Gray (68 mins), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan) for Cowan (59 mins), Henry Pyrgos, for Laidlaw (63 mins), Duncan Weir for Russell (64 mins), Sean Lamont for Dunbar (74 mins) (all Glasgow Warriors), Laidlaw for Pyrgos (79 mins)/
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet, Juan Imhoff, Marcelo Bosch, Juan Martin Hernandez, Manuel Montero; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Marcos Ayerza, Agustin Creevy, captain. Ramiro Herrera, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Cruz Guillemain, Rodrigo Baez, Leonardo Senatore., Javier Ortega Desio. Substitutes: Matias Cortese for Creevy (21 mins), Lucas Noguera Paz for Ayerza (62 mins), Francisco Chaparro for Herrera (44 mins), Lucas Ponce for Guillemain (68 mins), Facundo Isa for Baez (16 mins), Tomas Cubelli for Landajo (57 mins), Santiago Iglesias for Sanchez (52 mins), Horacio Agulla for Bosch (62 mins).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).