SCOTLAND came within a whisker of clinching a thrilling late victory against France in the Six Nations – but for a refereeing decision described as “shocking” and “embarrassing”.
Gregor Townsend’s side were 13-10 ahead at the break after a bright start to the game at Murrayfield.
But much like last week against Wales in their Six Nations opener, the second half performance was poor and France had the lead going into the closing stages.
However, in the dying moments of the game, Finn Russell stole the ball from a French scrum near the line and the resulting surge appeared to end with the ball down on the line for a try.
But referee Nic Berry ruled no try, suggesting he didn’t see the ball touch the ground, and eventually stuck with his decision despite replay evidence showing that it had.
The review went on for around four minutes with Berry seeming to change his mind in between.
The TMO in the booth upstairs was heard saying: “Nic, there is the ball on the ground.”
But Berry replied: “There is no conclusive evidence to overturn my original decision,” handing France a win in dramatic and controversial circumstances.
BBC Sportsound commentator Tom English called it “embarrassing” and accused Berry of “flip-flopping” while former Scotland player Chris Paterson described it as “shocking”
Russell said after the match he felt it was a clear try, while teammate George Turner looked close to tears.
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Townsend said in his post-match interview: “We were celebrating in the coaches box. We could hear the TMO’s conversation with the referee, saying ‘the ball was on foot then the ball was down’ and then he changes his mind and says ‘stick with the on-field decision’. I don’t know what you can say.
“From a coaching perspective, you’ve got to win the game and not put it in the hands of TMOs and referees and that is what we will work on.
“We were in control of the game and in control most of the way in tough conditions. We had to play a different way and I’m really disappointed we didn’t win the game. We felt we won the game – we saw the ball on the try line.”
Social media was awash with comments of Scotland being robbed of victory.
Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP said: Appalling decision. Scotland were robbed. What’s the point of having video replays if you won’t believe what you see. That was a try.”
One observer recalled the controversial call from the 2015 World Cup against Australia. They said: “Worst decision against Scotland since Joubert in 2015. That was a try all day long.”
A South Africa fan said: “If anyone is ever going to say ‘there is something wrong with rugby’ or ‘something is killing the game of rugby’, it is Scotland’s try being disallowed against France today at Murrayfield in the #SixNations2024. If you cannot award a try there, the rules are wrong.”
An England supporter said: “Speaking as an Englishman – Scotland were absolutely robbed there. Ref on the pitch went to give a try then bottled it along with the TMO. You can see the grass is above the ball. Did a mole pop up and hold it up?”
Former Wales and Celtic striker John Hartson also got involved, tweeting: “Scotland rugby totally robbed.. that is a try clearly the ball is on the ground.. so hard on Scotland. What’s the ref thinking of and the guys upstairs.”
Because the video ref felt it wasn’t conclusive, in the end the officiating team stuck with the ref’s decision.
That sparked celebrations among the French players and fans – and left the Scots inside the ground absolutely gutted.
That contentious call will be the main talking point over the coming days.
But when the dust settles there should also be an acknowledgement that Scotland should have had the game in the bag long before then.
They led until 10 minutes before the end but were too passive in the second half – trying not to lose the game rather than make sure they definitely won it.
And it means the nation’s Grand Slam dreams are over for another year after just two matches.
Scotland had won their opener in Cardiff – but only by the skin of their teeth after surviving a second-half battering from Wales
It was even worse for the French who were taught a lesson by Ireland on home soil.
Les Bleus simply HAD to bounce back at Murrayfield or kiss goodbye to their chances of winning the title.
Scotland had the roar of the home crowd behind them as they set out looking to make it two wins out of two.
And what a moment it was for Harry Paterson on just his ninth game as a pro.
The 22 year-old was handed his debut with just a few hours’ notice after Kyle Steyn’s wife went into labour.
Paterson took over from Kyle Rowe at full-back with Rowe switching to the right wing to take Steyn’s place.
And the new man had a role to play when Scotland forged in front after just seven minutes.
Paterson surged forward with the ball before passing inside to Huw Jones.
And the Glasgow centre found Ben White who slid across the wet turf and over the line. Captain Russell knocked over the extras.
France were without star scrum-half Antoine Dupont who has withdrawn from the Six Nations to focus on the Olympics.
But they still possess attacking threats all over the pitch and soon struck back.
Grant Gilchrist was pinged for offside and Thomas Ramos made no mistake from the tee.
France looked to add to that penalty and only a brilliant last-gasp tackle by Duhan van der Merwe stopped Gael Fickou powering over the line.
The travelling fans felt the Scotland winger had gone in high on Fickou but the officials were happy with the challenge and took no action.
White thought he had landed his second try when he darted over from close range from a penalty.
The scrum-half, though, had gone too soon and Russell instead made an easy kick to add three points to the Scotland tally – then repeated the trick just a few minutes later to stretch the lead.
France, though, were never going to give up easily and soon had their first try of the game after Scotland made a mess of dealing with the restart.
With all the tacklers caught up in the middle, the pass went wide to Fickou and the centre was able to stroll over in the corner.
Ramos made a brilliant conversion from the touchline to draw the French to within just three points.
With Uini Atonio sent to the bin for a no-arms tackle, Scotland were desperate to land another score before the half was out.
But they would regret not kicking for the posts when France won a scrum penalty to head for the sheds only three points behind.
Scotland showed they had learned their lesson from that when they chose to kick their next penalty. Russell made no mistake as he split the posts from the tee.
The Scotland co-captain then attempted an audacious drop goal effort but it drifted well wide – doing nothing to ease the tension that was building all around Murrayfield.
And it was France who then silenced the home crowd with a stunning score.
The ball went wide from Nolann le Garrec to Louis Bielle-Biarrey.
And the winger kicked through and beat the backtracking Scotland defence to touch down for a vital try.
Ramos made the conversion to put France in front for the first time in the match with less than 10 minutes left.
Scotland were toiling and it got worse when Ramos knocked over another penalty to extend France’s lead.
The hosts needed a try and Rowe got them up the pitch with a darting run but he had no support and was soon crowded out.
The game ended with Scotland camped on the goal line only for the French defence to deny them time after time.
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And just when they finally thought they had broken through the final verdict went against them by a matter of inches.
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