Finn Russell was one of tens of thousands of Scots in Murrayfield who felt Scotland had done enough to steal a last-gasp victory over France.
Scotland had led from the seventh minute until the 70th, but when Sam Skinner drove for the line with time up the referee’s on-field decision was that the ball had been held up. This put the onus on the television match official to find evidence to the contrary.
The footage was inconclusive, so what would have been the winning try could not be awarded. “For me that was a try at the end,” said Russell. “That’s not for me to decide. That’s up to the referee. That’s why he has the job.”
Nic Berry had the unenviable task of deciding on the spot whether a try had likely been scored. His initial feeling was that the ball had not been grounded, but he might just as easily have decided the other way. On such moments do matches turn.
Naturally, the reverse position was adopted by France. Grégory Alldritt, their captain, who left the field on a stretcher early in the second half, felt the outcome was correct. “For me it was no try,” he said. “I was just waiting for the decision, but I couldn’t imagine a try.”
“It was very good for suspense and for the audience,” said Fabien Galthié, his coach. “Great for advertising. The show was up. And we are happy.”
Scotland must regroup now and prepare for the visit of England in a fortnight. “We’ve got to take this defeat on the chin and get better for England,” said Russell. “We can’t let the referee decide what happens in a game. It’s up to us to play better and make these matches a victory. The way we got back into the game, the way I believe we scored, shows the character we’ve got. I’m proud of the boys. We will learn from it.”
“We were celebrating in the coaches’ box,” said Gregor Townsend. “We could hear the TMO’s conversation with the referee. He was saying the ball was on the 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.”
It is the second week running that Scotland have been denied a last-gasp try by the TMO for inconclusive grounding. Last week’s decision cost them a mere bonus point. This was harder to stomach. Now to respond for the visit of England.