There was the alluring promise of hope in the air for England fans on the morning the 2021 Six Nations began.
Whispers of head coach Eddie Jones possibly mixing things up halfway through the World Cup cycle. Perhaps, at last, an end to all that kicking seen in the autumn.
The sun shone on Twickenham on Saturday morning, weather that would allow the likes of England’s Jonny May or maybe even relative newcomer Ollie Lawrence to turn fans’ hopes into reality.
But darker clouds loomed. And as afternoon turned into evening, the hope wore thin, Scotland ending nearly four decades without a win in south west London as they secured a well-deserved 11-6 victory.
All week England had been promising better things to come in attack. Jamie George said they wanted to take teams apart, Eddie Jones used phrases like “adapt and evolve” and Henry Slade was excited by the prospect of getting his hands on the ball more.
The first drops of rain began to fall, no longer ideal conditions but surely England would still get to celebrate an opening-round win.
They had not lost at home to Scotland in 38 years, after all.
But something was amiss on the Twickenham turf. Instead of scything runs and deft offloads, there was only ill discipline.
The penalty count hit four after just five minutes, giving Scotland fly-half Finn Russell the chance to take the lead.
England’s autumnal style of play had been labelled by many as turgid. At least they were winning then.
Repeated use of a repetitive kicking game did not make enjoyable watching for England fans, but their side lifting the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup trophies did.
As the last of the hope that an English side more akin to Fabien Galthie’s effervescent French flock might show up was washed away in the drizzle, it was Scotland who shone.
Debutant Cameron Redpath was making the breaks that opposite number Lawrence – with whom he had played for England Under-20s – needed to cement his place in Jones’ squad.
Redpath had previously been called into camp by the England head coach but the 21-year-old was never capped and so instead chose the country his father Bryan once captained.
Lawrence, also 21, came away from the match with 3m made and one carry. Redpath came away with a slightly more respectable 40m and four carries – the one that got away, both from England’s defenders and Jones’ grasp.
The presence of British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland in the stands was an extra incentive for England’s stars, but it is surely a list of Scottish names the New Zealander has taken away as he ponders his selection for July’s South Africa tour.
May could do no wrong in the autumn, with a particular highlight his impressive solo try against Ireland, but faced with a rampant and resilient Scotland, he could do little right.
The wing made uncharacteristic errors under the high ball and on the opposite side of the pitch Anthony Watson was struggling to make something happen too.
After referee Andrew Brace got frustrated by one penalty too many and sent Billy Vunipola to the sin-bin, Scotland showed England how it was done.
That the visitors’ only try was a team affair seems fitting given it was their unified determination that earned them the historic victory.
The ball passed through the hands of Russell, captain Stuart Hogg, Redpath and hooker George Turner before Duhan van der Merwe eventually wrestled it to ground across the tryline.
Some had suggested this could be Scotland’s year, though the opposition fans would not dare believe it before kick-off.
The narrative could even have suited England, who were almost undone by the favourites tag when they had to come from behind to beat a second-string France side in the Autumn Nations Cup final.
On Saturday Jones’ side were missing five key forwards, vocal leaders on the pitch. Most of their Saracens contingent had not played since early December and even Premiership players were low on game-time after the cancellation of two rounds of European action.
And, of course, Twickenham was still empty.
In fact, with the match behind closed doors because of the pandemic, after Van der Merwe’s try it felt like a Scotland home game such was the passion of the celebrations from the visitors’ bench.
There are many excuses to be given, but the most logical explanation for the result is the Scots’ superb play.
Captain Owen Farrell – moved from centre to fly-half to create a more muscular midfield with Lawrence and Slade – struggled to pull England’s strings but did manage two penalties.
A second-half turnaround seemed plausible as Russell saw yellow for a thoughtless trip on Ben Youngs, but it turned out Scotland did not need him anyway as Hogg proved he had just as many tricks up his sleeve.
The visitors’ pressure was unrelenting to the end and England’s replacements – including fly-half George Ford – could do nothing to turn the tide.
Jones’ side have been forced to settle for defeat in their Six Nations opener for the second year in a row.
Just as in Paris last year, they come away with a losing bonus point that may well be enough to secure the title further down the line if they can turn things around.
But England’s shock loss opens unexpected doors for almost every other team. Scotland’s three home games suddenly seem like an opportunity and the stakes of Wales and Ireland’s match on Sunday have been raised.
Any promises of an exciting new English attack – like that shown by the French against admittedly significantly weaker Italian opponents – have not borne fruit.
As Saturday drew to a close there was still hope in the Twickenham air, but it did not belong to the English.