Steve McCormack expressed his pride after Scotland ended a wretched World Cup campaign on a high with a much-improved performance in a 14-14 draw with Samoa.
McCormack’s side went into the tournament ranked fourth in the world following an impressive 2016 Four Nations but crushing defeats by Tonga and New Zealand left their hopes hanging by a thread.
Scotland, already without several experienced NRL players, were further depleted after three players including captain Danny Brough were sent home for being too drunk to board a flight.
The Bravehearts were written off ahead of their must-win clash with a strong Samoa side in Cairns but dug deep to come agonisingly close to securing a quarter-final date with Australia.
Scotland led 14-6 at the break and missed two late chances to nick a memorable win, a year to the day since claiming a remarkable 18-18 draw against New Zealand in Workington.
“A lot was made of our efforts in the Four Nations and the last World Cup but that for me today was one of the best performances Scotland has had for a long, long time with regards to effort,” McCormack said in his post-match press conference.
“If you think about the young squad we’ve got and the first couple of results we had, the resilience, effort, spirit, skill and desire this team showed there in every bit of adversity you could have, I don’t think there could be anyone as proud as me.”
Danny Addy was Scotland’s outstanding player after taking over from Brough in the halves and he twice came close to booking his side’s place in the last eight.
“I had the chance to win the game at the end there (from a penalty) and another one with the drop goal,” said the Hull KR playmaker.
“But we can be proud - obviously not of the first two games - but of this last performance. We owed it to ourselves, the fans and everyone associated with Scotland.”
Samoa head coach Matt Parish insisted his team would challenge reigning champions Australia next Friday despite failing to win a game in Group B.
“We’re still alive, have got plenty of ticker and had a really wonderful World Cup,” he said.
“We haven’t probably played as well as we would have hoped but we’re still in the competition.
“We’ve got a game next week and you’ll see some of the Samoan pride and passion in that game, don’t worry about that.”