It was the third time in three RBS 6 Nations matches this year that the Scotland head coach has seen his side squander the chance to win and now leaves the Dark Blues facing the prospect of claiming the wooden spoon for a record-equaling 23rd time.
We just need to address a couple of simple things which will help us change and control outcomes better.
Despite surging into a 10-0 lead with a penalty from Greig Laidlaw and a superb intercept try from Glasgow Warriors centre Mark Bennett, Scotland struggled to cope with Italy’s driving maul.
The home side led 16-15 at the break as Laidlaw added a further two penalty goals and Italy clawed their way back through a Giovanbattista Venditti try beside the left upright after Kelly Haimona’s penalty effort had rebounded off the right upright and bounced fortuitously into his hands rather than the scrambling Scotland defenders.
Some of the talk from the Scotland coaches in the build-up to the match had been Italy’s potent pack, but while the Dark Blues had a slight collective weight advantage over their perennial wooden spoon rivals, they failed to repel them on the move with Italy captain Segio Parisse content to motor his forward colleagues into the Scotland 22.
It was no surprise then that two of Italy’s three tries came through the forwards, with their first coming on 10 minutes when Josh Furno touched down after a driving maul.
Irish referee George Clancy finally lost patience with the Scots’ repeated infringements in the closing stages as he yellow carded debutant replacement lock Ben Toolis before awarding the penalty try minutes later, which also saw Hamish Watson, Scotland’s other debutant off the bench, yellow carded before former Scotland U20 internationsl Tomasso Allan kicked the simple conversion for the Azzurri.
And Cotter bemoaned his side’s lack of discipline, which also proved costly in their earlier defeats to France and Wales.
“I’m obviously not getting the message across,” Cotter said in his post-match press conference.
“That’s one of those things that has been spoken about and it needs to be taken on board.
“I still think there is a lot of growth in this side. Things have gone forward.
“We just need to address a couple of simple things which will help us change and control outcomes better.”
For Italy, it was just a second away in the Six Nations with their last also coming at BT Murrayfield eight years ago, but few people had foreseen a victory for the Azzurri against a much-improved Scotland side playing attractive rugby since Cotter took charge last summer.
We didn’t control it as well as we might have in the last 20 minutes. Through that lack of composure and control we got ourselves in difficulty.
Any hope of salvaging their championship after a pair of defeats at the start of the championship were comprehensively blown away, despite Scotland’s scrum holding up under intense pressure at the end.
But Glasgow Warriors stand-off Peter Horne failed to find touch with the resultant penalty – the only time he had kicked for touch in the match with full-back Hogg taking on most of the touchfinders – allowing the Italians one final chance to lay siege to the Scotland tryline.
With tough encounters against England at Twickenham and tournament favourites Ireland at BT Murrayfield to come, the future is not as bright as first thought after Scotland’s impressive autumn campaign.
And Cotter admitted that his side lacked composure when it mattered most.
“The result was disappointing because we led for the whole game,” Cotter added.
“We didn’t control it as well as we might have in the last 20 minutes.
“Through that lack of composure and control we got ourselves in difficulty.
“We have two more games against England away and Ireland at home and, if we look at this closely, there are things we need to do to give us more composure and allow us to close out games like this.”
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news
BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge