Gregor Townsend insisted are making progress despite a third defeat of the Guinness Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin.  

Townsend did, though, agree with captain Finn Russell’s assessment that Scotland must be mentally stronger, while adding he feels they have made strides in this area following the Rugby World Cup.  

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Townsend said: “It happens in every sport. The mental side is the same as the strategy, the skill side and the physical side. 

“Every team in this championship has moments that go against them. It could be focus, or how quickly do you reset? 

“Today, that was really good. At times, there was some good play from Ireland that put us on the back foot. 

“But our reset as a team was probably the best it’s been this season.” 

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Going into the championship, Scotland had the most settled side from the World Cup and with other sides missing key players or in a state of flux, this was a real opportunity for Townsend’s side to make their mark in the competition.  

Townsend admitted he is frustrated by how the campaign has panned out.  

He added: "We’ve had chances to win all games. In the three games we lost, they were all within a score. 

“That’s disappointing for us. We felt we should have won against France. We never performed well enough against Italy, but we performed well today. 

Scotland Rugby News: Townsend said he was disappointed with the home defeat to France, and the performance in Rome last weekendTownsend said he was disappointed with the home defeat to France, and the performance in Rome last weekend (Image: SNS)

“Two wins is not what we set out to do, but we believe in this team. Today was a good end to the championship in terms of performance. 

“But we’re still disappointed we didn’t pick up the win.” 

Scotland and Italy are the only side not to have won the Six Nations since its inception 24 years ago, but Townsend believes the team is on the path to becoming genuine title contenders under his leadership. 

The head coach added: “We were in contention over the last couple of weeks, which hasn’t been the case in previous championships. 

"I think the evidence is there. We’re still searching, like any team, to back-up performances. It is difficult during the Six Nations with the competition and the quality of teams we’re up against.  

"If you don’t get your performance spot-on, you’ll be really challenged to win a game. 

"In Rome, that was on us. Against France, that was on us.

"Rome was disappointing. But, as I said before, it’s difficult to match the performance week in, week out in the Six Nations. I don’t think any team has done that this year. 

"I was encouraged by the performance here against Ireland at a venue that we knew would be a challenge. " 

Scotland put in a huge defensive effort in Dublin, but could not impose themselves in attack with Ireland dominating possession and territory until Harry Byrne was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Russell.  

Scotland Rugby News: Huw Jones and Blair Kinghorn stop James LoweHuw Jones and Blair Kinghorn stop James Lowe (Image: PA)

Townsend said: "We didn’t have enough possession in the second half, which was largely due to us making errors and giving away penalties, but also the way Ireland played.  

“The way we kept going was outstanding.” 

There was praise too for some of Scotland’s breakout stars of the championship, with Andy Christie putting in an outstanding performance in Dublin, as did Stafford McDowall on his first Six Nations start.  

Townsend added: “Andy’s had a really good Six Nations overall. He’s a player who’s really come through this year, like Kyle Rowe and Stafford McDowall. They have taken their chances.” 

Such was Ireland’s dominance, three of Scotland’s forwards – Zander Fagerson, Christie and Scott Cummings – all made in excess of 20 tackles apiece. By contrast, only two Irishmen reached double figures. 

While praising Christie for a “really good” display, Townsend also lauded the work of his forwards.  

He said: “I thought the pack as a whole were outstanding.  

“In the ten minutes we were a man down, their effort was outstanding.”