Six Nations: Scotland v France report: heartbreak for hosts

Sam Skinner denied at the death after Sam Skinner try is not awarded

Scotland got over the line in injury time but no evidence of the ball being grounded meant the try was not awarded. Image: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.com
Scotland got over the line in injury time but no evidence of the ball being grounded meant the try was not awarded. Image: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.com

Scotland 16

France 20

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

MOST of the second half was a dull kick-fest, but it ended with high drama and ultimately heartbreak for Scotland when what would have been the match winning try by Sam Skinner was not awarded due a lack of evidence that the ball had been grounded.

Speaking immediately afterwards, co-captain Finn Russell said he disagreed with the decision but didn’t blame the match officials for his side not managing to back-up last weekend’s Six Nations opening weekend win over Wales in Cardiff.

“I think it was a tough second half. The whole game was an arm-wrestle. Obviously France came out on the winning side of that,” he said. “Personally, I believe that was a try, but that’s up to the referee to decide. We’ve got to take this defeat on the chin and we’ve got to get better for England [at Murrayfield in a fortnight’s time]. We can’t let the referee decide what happens in the game. It is up to us to play better and make these matches a victory.”


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In the cold light of day, Scotland will rue their failure to build on their positive first half showing by being sucked into a kicking battle after the break, which allowed France to first get a foothold in the game and then snatch the lead for the first time in the contest through a moment of magic from Louis Bielle-Biarrey in the 69th minute.

Scotland were forced into a last minute reshuffle of their back three after Kyle Steyn pulled out of the team due to his wife being in labour, meaning Kyle Rowe shifted from full-back to the right wing with Edinburgh’s Harry Paterson called in at full-back to make only his eighth start (ninth appearance) in professional rugby.

Somewhat predictably, the new boy was tested almost immediately, with French scrum-half Maxime Lucu sending up a box straight from kick-off receipt, and Paterson was equal to the challenge, collecting cleanly and recycling despite a thumping tackle from Damian Penaud.

Another promising omen was Rory Darge winning a jackal penalty a few minutes later, and Scotland then surged into the lead with an excellent team try. It was initiated by Duhan van der Merwe getting a hand to a high ball, with Darge scooping up and thundering into the heart of France’s defence. Pierre Schoeman kept momentum going, then slick hands from White through Finn Russell, Sione Tuipulotu and van der Merwe gave Paterson a gap which he scooted through, before Huw Jones took the inside pass and fed White, who had run a classic scrum-half support line and did well to collect the ball off his shoulder then slide home.

France responded in quick order when Thomas Ramos slipped through Rowe’s grasp and carried into the strike zone, prompting a short spell of pressure which led to an offside penalty being awarded against Grant Gilchrist. Ramos kicked the three easy points from in front of the posts.

The visitors threatened again when Gael Fickou burst the line but van der Merwe did brilliantly to not just get back for the try-saving tackle a yard from the Scottish line, but get to his feet to make a crucial interception off the quick recycle, then send a 50-yard clearance downfield from an impossibly tight ankle.

The French players squawked in vain for a high-tackle and then confirmed their lack of focus when the Scott Cummings stole the subsequent line-out, and Scotland soon restored the seven point gap on the scoreboard with an offside penalty kicked by Russell.

And hosts stretched their lead to 10 points with another offside penalty kicked by their stand-off, who had just swung play from his own 22 to the opposition’s 22 with two excellent touch-finders.

France bounced back in familiar style with their big forwards softening up the Scots defence before the ball was sent leftward to the unmarked Fickou, who was always going to score despite Jones’ best efforts to get across for the miracle tackle.

Scotland spent the final few minutes of the half hammering their opponents’ line and the desperate visitors conceded a series of ruck and offside penalties. then lost tight-head prop Uini Atonio to a yellow-card for a no-arms challenge on Matt Fagerson which resulted in shoulder to head contact. But the decision to attack the scrum directly in front of the sticks backfired when it ended up collapsing and referee Nic Berry raised his arm in France’s favour.

After the tribulations of last week, Scotland will have been delighted to be on the right side of the penalty-count (7-2) but frustrated that their scoreboard advantage was only three points.

 

 

Scotland started the second half in purposeful fashion and Penaud had to look lively to get to a loose ball behind his own line ahead of White.

France head coach Fabien Galthie cleared his bench during the third quarter, and one double substitution brought two second-rows with famous rugby heritages onto the park, in the shape of Alexandre Roumat (son of 1990s Les Bleus great Olivier) and Passolo Tuilagi (son of former Samoa international and Perpignan player Henry, and nephew of England centre Manu and former Samoa internationals Freddie, Alesana, Anitelea and Sanele Vavae).

Then, after the setback of losing captain Gregor Alldritt to a serious looking knee injury, the  visitors threatened for the first time in the second half, and Paterson did well to tidy up Penaud’s kick through when under serious pressure from Bielle-Biarrey on his own line.

Having survived that scare, Scotland started to assert themselves again, battling through a series of phases on France’s 22 and picking up an offside penalty which Russell turned into three more points.

The game became bogged down as a kicking contest, much to the chagrin of the Murrayfield spectators, most of whom had paid good money to be entertained, and when a game of rugby briefly broke out again it was the visitors who led the charge, with Bielle-Biarrey chasing down his own kick ahead for the try, and Ramos’ conversion gave Les Bleus a single point lead with just under 10 minutes left to play.

The kicking quickly returned, and Scotland just couldn’t find a way back into the game, with another penalty kicked by Ramos after a maul offside stretching the visiting lead to four points.

If the previous 20 minutes were dull, the final three were full of drama. Rowe skipped past four would-be tacklers and went for the corner, but lost control and knocked on when he was brought down less than 10 yards from glory, only for France to cough-up the ball after the scrum, with Russell pouncing to initiate a frantic injury-time assault on the French line.

Sam Skinner thought he had gone over but referee Berry’s instinct was to say ‘no’, so the TMO was called in. And after five tortuous minutes of reviewing inconclusive video angles, the on-field decision that Yoram Moefana‘s boot had prevented the ball being grounded stood.

As the final whistle sounded, Murrayfield was eerily quiet as players and fans alike digested what had just transpired.

 

Teams –

Scotland: K Rowe; K Rowe, H Jones (C Redpath 77), S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell, B White; P Schoeman (A Hepburn 72), G Turner (E Ashman 16-26, 68), Z Fagerson, G Gilchrist (S Skinner 74), S Cummings, M Fagerson (A Christie 41), R Darge, J Dempsey

France: T Ramos; D Penaud, G Fickou, J Danty (Y Moefana 62), L Bielle-Biarrey (D Aldegheri 37-48); M Jalibert, M Lucu (N Le Garrec, 49); C Baille (S Taofifenua 58), P Mauvaka (J Marchand 48), U Antonio (D Aldegheri 58), C Woki (P Tuilagi 49), P Gabrillagues (A Roumat 49), F Cros, C Ollivon, G Alldritt (P Boudehent, 49).

Referee: Nic Berry

 

Scorers –

Scotland: Try: White; Con: Russell; Pen: Russell 3.

France: Tries: Fickou, Bielle-Biarrey; Con: Ramos 2; Pen: Ramos 2.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 10-3; 13-3; 13-8; 13-10 (h-t) 16-10; 16-15; 16-17; 16-20.

 

Yellow card –

France: Atonio (37mins)

 

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Six Nations: Scotland v France live blog …

About David Barnes 3818 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

62 Comments

    • That’s an excellent analysis. Trying to think of the last time we were on the right side of one of these dodgy decisions….the late great Tom Smith scored a ropey one v Fiji in RWC that got us out of jail….but think of a more recent one. Ourselves Italy Fiji etc always seem to be at the wrong end of this stuff. No chance that try isn’t given at the other end of the park. IRB needs to be investigated because there is no doubt that refs are being instructed to give decisions to higher ranked sides. It absolutely stinks.

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      • Rugby Fan – It would be interesting to find out what other conspiracy theories you believe in. Maybe the moon landings were created in a Hollywood studio and the earth is actually flat!

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      • The International Rugby Board is no more it is World Rugby that manage the game with the incredible ability to change laws without considering the unintended consequences.

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  1. Firstly, it was a try. Not doubt. Secondly, we shouldn’t have got ourselves in the position of needing a last minute TMO decision to win the game. Townsend has to shoulder a large part of the blame for that. In the middle of the second half when momentum stalled for both teams, Galthie unloaded his bench to try and get some impetus back. Clearly a coach who has as much faith in his bench as he does his starters. Townsend sits on his hands. Runs his props into the ground, fails to bring on a scrumhalf who can ignite a spark. He’s clearly got his favourites and doesn’t trust the ‘finishers’. Townsend has taken this team as far as he can.

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    • But as I suggested elswhere how does that square with the fact that we scored the Try in the last moments, sometimes if a side is going well and coping with the opposition it’s a retrogade step to unsettle the balance with changes.

  2. When we attacked we showed that we could put the French under pressure. The kick tennis we endured holding on to a slender lead was complacent. Positives darge, Dem[sey Patterson, Rowe and our lineout. We need to believe in ourselves that we can beat anyone if we just keep it simple and go through the phases.

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    • I agree. Too many times we went for the box kick which just delivered clean possession to the French. So called “game management”. It’s the main reason for selecting White when Horne’s fast service suits our style so much better. The under-utilising of Horne is a huge mistake by the coaches.

  3. TMO: Nick I’m going to let this one play through…The ball is held up for now.. AND THERE IS THE BALL ON THE GROUND
    REF: So your saying the ball was initially held up on the foot and then its gone and been grouded in goal so I need to change my on field decision to a try….

    TMO then has to go back over the evidence again which he has already seen and explained clealy to the REF and the WORLD that the ball is seen on the ground….

    I’m still sat here and I still cant still believe what we have all heard and witnessed…..

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  4. So no apology to Mr Townsend this week !! So now for my pelters. I thought Scotland did well to hang in there for a while but as usual they ran out of ideas. To quote Mr Cotter the Scots defensive coach was purring at the Scots defence I must have missed the
    part where he added Fickou has stopped any self congrats as 4 (at least) tried to get across to defend the line as he stood alone Roseburn as the defence was standing in Princess Street you get the gist. Its all about head strength and under Mr Townsend it will not happen If we can find a SA or NZ coach we might just get there as the players are decent although decent not world class but with a decent Selected coach we might get to challenging for a 6 Nation title. As regarding the try or no try if the official says no try then its not, even schoolboys Know this as a fact.

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  5. .Just back from the game and have had a chance to scrutinise the footage of the non try at the end. I am absolutely staggered by what I have seen. What is inconclusive about the situation. Often in these situations the ball is obscured and there is no visible TV angle that shows the ball in which case it is inconclusive. In this case the ball is visible and can be seen clearly slipping of the foot of the French player and then on to the ground in the possession of Skinner – its a try and I dont know what the ref said was not conclusive. What is even more strange is the TMO stating he can see the ball grounded but then later says stick with your onfield decision. What’s going on here and why did it take about 5 minutes to decide when only one camera angle showed the clear grounding so there wasn’t a need to review numerous angles. I fear Berry just couldn’t bare to change his on field decision. Some may say that we should have won anyway but if the ref had given the try wed be talking about a decent win in a tight game.

    Regards the rugby – we played pretty well and kept the error and penalty count down from last week. Should have taken the penalty just before half time. Would have ended up 19-10 up in the 2nd half and would have changed the pattern of the game. We continue to fail to score when we get into the last 10m and hammer away at the line – both at end of first half and at end of game. This is a key area for improvement – we need to be more dynamic and move the ball quicker. Ireland always score from here, they are the masters of this and we need to copy what they do. Lineout went well and defence generally good. We seemed to find more space in the 1st half and got the ball wide but in the 2nd half the French seemed to give us less space and we couldn’t make much ground.

    Well done to young Harry Paterson. Only called in this morning and unless you watch Edinburgh regularly you’d barely know who he was. To be thrown in agains France at short notice, he performed admirably and I dont remember a mistake – great start to his international career.

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    • The ball touch a Scotland player but didnt go forward but before that a French player came in from the wrong side and prevented Scotland a next phase , so in my opinion Scotland should have ha penalty .

  6. Just watched it again hoping to find it wasn’t clear.

    Sadly the very first replay the tmo watches show the ball CLEARLY grounded, nothing in the way, no doubt. Just complete incompetence and I will look at the final table with suitably adjusted points. Scotland currently on 8 points

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  7. Unbelievably poor decision by both Nic Berry & the lamentably myopic (Irish) TMO. How on Earth was that clear try disallowed? As Tom Simpson quite correctly observed re the uncertain identity of the one responsible for touching the ball down “a large bicep in a blue jersey”. Sounds like a Scottish player to me. That, for me, is positive ID enough.Nic Berry wouldn’t be the first referee to be a PNG on this side of the border.Cast ur minds back to the Scotland v Australia RWC quarter-final & what occurred @ the end of that match. Just sayin’.

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  8. I thought both co-captains were the best players on the pitch today. Darge certainly proved me and lots of others wrong about his match fitness. He was everywhere.

    It was a strange one for Russell. Its not ideal having him effectively playing full back when you want him much further forward attacking but that was obviously the game plan for today. What I would say is his defence is outstanding for a standoff, absolutely no fear. Not to mention his intervention to recover the ball at the end.

    Also a word of positivity for Zander Fagerson. Played the full 80 against some of the biggest and best props in the world without getting in to trouble.

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  9. OMG what happened. We were the better team ball in hand and decided to play risk free rugby in second half and let luck and TMO decide the outcome . I have supported coaching up to now but my patience is running out .We now have Finn overthinking the game instead of playing with possession having confidence in our processes If we are patient in the right areas of the pitch – the tries or penalties and yellows come . Historically we have played to much rugby in wrong place now it seems we have gone the other way and have decided that if we are in up – we play no Rugby just boot it up in air or play kick tennis . It’s not like its rocket science just play a more balanced game – we did it in phases . Increasingly looking like it’s time for change sorry Glasgow but Scotland just might need Franco. One thing is for sure we will then have a clearly defined drilled game plan giving the players the freedom to play expansive attacking rugby at the right time In the right place.

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    • Not this again, what evidence suggest Franco would be better, Glasgows inconsistent form and zoro trophies under him or his terrible Italy record. If Townsend moved on we have to have better options than Franco Smith.

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      • At least Franco knows Horne n Mathews are our best 9 n hooker….that puts him well above GT for a start!!

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      • BINGO !. Thanks Rugby Fan for another predictable response regardless of performances. White and Turner were both class and showed why they are amongst our best players.

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  10. This was a dreadful game of rugby. What irks more is that Scotland managed to lose to a very poor French team, who posed little threat for the majority of the game. Game management at the end of the first half and all but the closing minutes of the second was amateur at the very most. Those last few minutes showed what opportunities can be created when playing positive rugby and not the aimless kick tennis deployed to try and see out the game with half an hour still to play. Most will focus on the ‘controversial’ refereeing decision at the end of the game but to do so would be to overlook Scotland’s inadequacies. I see GT is getting a fair bit of flak for this but he is not on the pitch. There are 2 ‘Captains’ who need to look at how they influenced the game.

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    • Sorry ‘at a loss’ but you really are.

      France, even at their currently slightly weakened selves, are highly dangerous. We were playing it just right, looking for the penalty or drop goal option to go more than a try up.

      Unfortunately it was us that made the mistake. Really enjoyed the game and will think on it as a win.

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      • Al F you think we were ‘playing it right’?!
        I think the lack of points in the second half and ultimately defeat may be the hard evidence to dispute that!
        I’m glad you enjoyed the game but I think you are in a very small minority there.

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      • No it wasn’t us …it was officials and calling it a ‘mistake’ is ludicrously generous….it’s deliberate corruption.

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    • Game management was fine….we literally scored enough tries to win but officials refused to allow that….no tactics or skills can mitigate for officials refusing to allow perfectly valid scores!

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  11. Maybe we should have been out of sight at half time.

    But we aren’t going to steamroller sides, particularly France, who have 500k players registered, v our 50k. We need to play well, and just can’t have referees making errors. Last weeks penalty count was madness, as the analysis done has proven. This week we are in control, winning the kicking game, when there is a clear knock on their 22, which isn’t called. 30 secs, a marginal pass and a great bit of pace and bounce and we are behind.

    Then we have a clear try, which everyone, including the TMO, who says so on tape, can see grounded that should have seen us beat one of the best teams around.

    Lots of folk criticise Townsend, but we played the slippery conditions excellently this week against a massive French pack. Last week we blew the Welsh away until the ref only started refereeing one side. At the World Cup we were up against it against SA and Ireland, but it could have been very different if the officials looked at the clear head in head shot in game 1.

    Finn and Darge were world class today and our pack really stood up. We will look back on these days as golden, but may rue the fact that bad refereeing has stopped us achieving something special. Credit to Townsend for at least some of that, and for the SRU for finding VDM, Schu, Tuipoluto, Dempsey and going further back Hugh Jones that have given us a chance to be competitive. We all want to see young Scots coming through too, so fair play for giving the fullback a go (I was very worried!). But with our numbers casting the net wide is vital.

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    • I think Townsend should take some criticism for his use of the bench. Horne should have been on after France scored to try and increase the tempo, maybe Redpath too.

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      • Have to agree. It doesnt do anything for the confidence of the guys on the bench if the coach wont play them even when we need fresh legs to accelerate the attack at the end of the game.

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  12. Frustrating loss. We didn’t do enough with our possession in the first half.

    And shouldn’t have to rely on a score at the end of the game to win the match. Strangely passive in 2nd half.

    That was one of the worst French teams I’ve seen for a while – scrum poor line out worse and seems couldn’t string a passer of play together.

    Bright side – Patterson played like someone with many more caps never mind pro minutes.

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    • Hi Dom, It says very little if you think a poor poor French side beat us. The scoreboard tells the truth and the truth is a very poor French side beat a very very poor Scots side.

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  13. It hurts!!!
    Up there with the Jon Callard hand in the ruck in 94′ feeling when the referee saw Callards blue cuff of his jersey as one of ours!!!
    With Kinghorn and Darcy aiming to be fit in two weeks will there be changes??

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    • I was thinking about Darcy and Kinghorn, you assume they’ll come straight back into starting 15 but they’ll just be back from injury and no game time, so will be interesting to see what Townsend does. It would feel so harsh to drop Rowe who has been excellent. Steyn would likely still be on the bench but I’d argue Rowe absolutely deserves to keep his place and should at least be in the 23.

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    • Doing your Joe Biden impersonation, Cut-Off?

      It was Rob Andrew’s blue-cuffed sleeve at Murrayfield in 1994. Jon Callard converted the ensuing penalty to give England their narrowest of victories…..

  14. The still shows the ball was clearly grounded so yes we really can blame the officials. It’s their job to get those decisions right and they clearly changed their minds after acknowledging it was a try. It’s either gross incompetence or corrupt. As others have said GT refusal to use bench was the usual stubbornness. His ego is now an obstacle to Scotland winning and he needs to be away after 6n.

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  15. We were robbed, Skinner lying on the ground, pulls ball off yellow boot on to ground, half the ball disappears under the grass level, try. Just because the ref saw the initial placement and missed the second move to ground he makes a poor decision. One of those angles clearly shows the ball on the ground.
    That said I think we just tried to defend a lead in the second half and the French sneaked a forward pass to Bielle-Biarrey who scored well and we lost.
    For the second week where were the subs, it’s to late coming on in the last 5 minutes
    Redpath at 77 Hepburn at 72 Skinner at 74 and so sign of Horne or Millar-Mills or Healy. What is going on in that box with Gregor. The French were replacing from the late 40th minute. That’s a game we should have won end off.
    Can I just give a shout out to Finn he puts in some tackles , all text book and mostly against guys way bigger than him , no fear, what a man.

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  16. World Rugby have rallied round Nic Berry for too long. Ressie was right. He robbed us at the World Cup and again today. The TMO is complicit. Also, the Toony naysayers…replace with whom? The SRU are more underwater than Michelle Mone’s knickers. We can’t throw money at this problem.

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  17. Frustrating loss.
    Everyone could see the team tiring…France stripped the bench to change the game….GT sat and did nothing other than a forced replacement.
    IMO GT out. We almost lost a match last week that we were cruising. Lost a match this week that looked like it was there for us to win most of the match. 2 Terrible RWCs. His stubborn attitude is his own downfall.

    Only positive for men was Harry Paterson. Looks a natural test level FB…and far more assured than Kinghorn ever has. It’s sure GT will replace him next match.

    Refereeing??…Urgh!!!..usual mixture of sensible, bizarre, infuriating and just plain inaccurate.

    Apparently Wales play the cleanest rugby in the history of rugby….laughable!

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    • Totally agree about Townsend and that Paterson looked very assured for being brought in late to start for his first cap. Well done Harry and you deserve another start but then again it is Townsend.

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    • Townsend has to go asap. Harry Paterson was outstanding in his first international. I’m sure his Dad Stevie P. was in tears when he ran out onto the pitch.

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  18. The TMO bottled it big time, he blatantly said he saw a grounding…

    However, we shouldnt have left the result in the hands of the Ref/TMO. We need to be be ruthless when playing teams who are down to 14 men.

    Doom and gloom aside, what a debut from young Harry Patterson!

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  19. All will feel gutted, but not the refs fault. What we are simply not good at doing is scoring from pick and goes when <5m out unless we get quick ball – should have scored at end of first half, and should have scored at end of second and not leave it to chance…. Need to get that killer instinct but don’t know how – still…. Lots of positives, Paterson slotted straight in and had a great game, well done lad. Christie looked good but no surprise there. Still wonder if Bradbury should be there till Dempsey gets more game time?

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  20. Scotland can’t use the TMO as scapegoat here. We got complacent holding a lead, just like Cardiff, and we had no answers when our opponents come and score. We got frantic again! The final 5 minutes in Edinburgh are so similar to final 5 minutes in Cardiff.

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  21. Should have kicked the penalty just before half time ((basics). Townsend should have given the instruction to Russell.

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    • Fagerson fails in another key pressure scrum and we should have taken the points and kept the scoreboard ticking. In typical Scottish fashion we botched it went in a half time on a negative instead of reflecting on a very positive first half. We never recovered from that mental set back and France knew they had been let off the hook and went in on a positive after being dominated.

      Before the introduction of the TMO that was not a try because the ref called it as held up and although it obviously touched the ground you could not see who actually grounded it and Scotland endured another hard luck story.

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  22. Raging! Obviously.

    But only ourselves to blame.

    The French were there to be beaten and we… To be honest, I don’t know what we were doing in that second half.

    Dwayne must’ve been bored out of his mind lounging on his wing.

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  23. Play two more phases and the ref doesn’t get to decide if it is a try or not…. Same as last week. Patience boys, patience. Good sides have confidence in their ability to score….

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  24. Poor decision by the ref.It was try. It would have been if on field decision was”try”
    Scotland played well. Some silly rules mind.

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    • I agree re the ref. I think he is getting off the hook with the failure of the video ref to definitively see that the ball touched the ground. When you look at the angle which appears to show grounding, you can also see that Berry had an unobstructed view of the ball, and how he couldn’t see the grounding is beyond me. It should absolutely have been on field try which would have stood.
      I also believe however that being sucked into a game of kick tennis was a huge mistake and we lost all momentum because of it. We shouldn’t have had to rely on the ref making the right decision.

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