Scotland v France TMO controversy: Why no try was the right call

Scotland are denied a winning try against France
Scotland are denied a winning try against France - pixel8000

Gregor Townsend insisted Scotland scored a try in the dramatic finish at Murrayfield against France, adding that he did not understand how referee Nic Berry and television match official Brian MacNeice concluded against a winning score despite the TMO previously suggesting the ball had been grounded.

Sam Skinner appeared to have grounded the ball on the line, but the score was not awarded after the on-field decision was no try.

Speaking afterwards, Townsend said: “I don’t understand the rationale when you see the pictures and also hear the conversation where between [the referee and TMO] they have said the ball has been placed on the try line.

“Absolutely gutted for the players. The emotions straight after were what a fantastic win, to play so well and come back, what a victory for our supporters. And it’s taken away from you. It is sport, we know that, and we have to be better. We have to make sure we take winning and losing out of the hands of referees and TMOs.

“We were celebrating in the coaching box seeing the pictures of the ball being placed on the try line after it was on the boot, after the TMO had sent it went onto the ground.

“It was TMO driven. Now, if the referee is seeing the pictures we are all seeing in the stadium, maybe it is on his shoulders as well to say that ball is down and that is a try, isn’t it? But the TMO was the one who said to stick with the on-field decision.”

France captain Gregory Alldritt said that after viewing the first angle he did not believe a try had been scored, adding that he “could not imagine a try”.

Fabien Galthie, the France head coach, joked that the long process over the decision was “very good for the suspense and for the audience, a fantastic idea to check the video over four minutes”. When asked if he wanted a shorter process with fewer replays, Galthie replied with a smile: “In the end, I am happy.”

What was the on-field decision?

With the game on the line at Murrayfield, Scotland replacement Sam Skinner dived for the line and was adjudged by match referee Berry to have been held up. Berry then referred the call to the television match official, MacNeice.

A total of 10 replays were checked, with supporters below one of the big screens trying to point on the screen where the ball had been grounded.

Initially, the ball appeared to be grounded on the yellow boot of a French defender, possibly Yoram Moefana, before disappearing behind that boot and in all likelihood being grounded.

Nic Berry
Nic Berry has a good, long look at the moment that decided the match - Getty Images/Stu Forster

What did the TMO say?

Having checked an initial eight replays, the TMO asked for the clip to be “rock and rolled”, shown backwards and forwards, suggesting that the ball had been initially held up “for now” before adding “there is the ball on the ground”.

Berry replied by repeating MacNeice’s suggestion that the ball was on the foot, before going on the ground. He then asked if he needed to reverse his on-field decision of no-try to a try.

MacNeice replied that he needed “definitive evidence of the ball on the ground” and wanted to go back to the last angle to see if he could “clearly” see that.

Having rock and rolled a ninth replay, MacNeice informed Berry: “I cannot say for certain, I do not have clear enough ball on ground, Nic.”

Berry in conversation with Brian MacNeice after which the TMO told him he could not switch the earlier decision of 'no try'
Berry in conversation with Brian MacNeice after which the TMO told him he could not switch the earlier decision of 'no try' - PA/Jane Barlow

Because of that, Berry replied that he needed to stay with his on-field decision.

MacNeice tried to check a 10th angle before replying “no, I can’t see it”.

Addressing France’s Charles Ollivon and Scoland’s Rory Darge, Berry said: “My on-field decision was held up because the ball was on the foot. We have checked all camera angles, there is no conclusive evidence to say that was a try. No try, held up, the game is over.”

Finn Russell
Finn Russell, as with his coach, felt Scotland should have been awarded the last-minute try and with it the win - Getty Images/Stu Forster

Was it the right decision?

It felt like every person within Murrayfield knew a try had been scored. But given the lack of conclusive evidence for the referee on the field and the TMO, the right call was made.

What has the reaction been?

MSP member Jamie Halcro Johnston suggested that Scotland were robbed, saying: “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.”

Nigel Owens, the former Rugby World Cup final referee, believed that the ball was on the ground, while questioning whether there was enough clear evidence.

The BBC commentator Andrew Cotter described it as “death by television” for Scotland.