Following a dramatic 20-16 victory for France over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, here’s our five takeaways from the Six Nations clash.
Damned it you do…
It was probably a try and we have sympathy for Scotland, but ‘probably’ isn’t enough for the television match official when the guidance from the referee is that he thinks the ball has been held up.
The TMO needs clear evidence to overrule the on-field call and, from his viewpoint, we can understand why Brian MacNeice came to that conclusion. Scotsmen and women are understandably up in arms but so would have the French had the decision gone against them.
It was a difficult situation for all the officials, with Nic Berry initially seeing the ball on top of a France foot. That prompted the referee to state that he believed that it had been held up, only for it to seemingly roll onto the ground when being viewed by the TMO.
On reflection, it looked like it had been scored but let’s not attack the officials and insist the game was decided by that call when Scotland had 79 minutes to get it right where, as we discuss later on, they let themselves down far too often.
Not a one-off
Many expected France to be better this week but, in many ways, they simply weren’t. Granted, the intensity was better than against Ireland and they fronted up, but too many areas of their game are currently faltering.
It is not something to worry about long-term but more the frustration that successive poor performances will bring to a side that have ambitions of being the best in the world. There was an overhaul of the coaching staff following the Rugby World Cup and it has showed.
Les Bleus have new coaches in charge of the attack and lineout, and unsurprisingly those are the facets of their play which have caused the most consternation for Fabien Galthie over the first two rounds. Thankfully for the French, they have the individual class to bail them out of difficult situations, which leads onto…
Monstrous Alldritt and individual quality
We very much hope the number eight’s injury is not as serious as it looked. The France skipper was comfortably the best player on the park in this Six Nations encounter during his 49 minutes on the field and was the main reason why they were still in the game at that point.
Alldritt’s carrying was destructive while he was superb over the breakdown, both slowing the Scottish down at the ruck and also winning turnover ball. It was an unbelievable display before his knee sadly seemed to give way.
France were also indebted to the likes of Gael Fickou, Francois Cros, who was superb, especially in the second half, and youngster Louis Bielle-Biarrey. It was strange to see the 20-year-old demoted to the bench in Round One but he displayed his quality on Murrayfield with the winning score.
A word too for the impact off the bench with the likes of Posolo Tuilagi and Nolann le Garrec giving them much-needed direction as they escaped with a victory they barely deserved.
Opportunity missed for Scotland
They keep on doing this. Gregor Townsend’s men were by far the best team in the first half but they simply let the visitors back into the game and, ultimately, only have themselves to blame. Credit must go to France for the way they stayed in the fight, but that match was there to be won for Scotland.
It is the same old story for the Scots. They may cry foul over the try that never was but it should have not got to that point, with them completely in control at 13-3 in front in the first half, only to mess up the restart.
France duly scored a try from that attack, putting the pressure back onto the Scots, but Uini Atonio’s yellow card opened another chance for the hosts. However, once again, they failed to truly grasp the moment and Finn Russell’s 58th minute penalty was their final score of the match.
It has been years of near misses for Scotland, who have promised so much yet delivered very little, and this match is another to add to that list of frustration.
Changing the ‘Dupont Law’
We don’t want to dwell too much on it as the match was drama-filled and generally an entertaining affair, but World Rugby certainly need to do something about the offside line from kicks.
As it stands, players, providing they are at least 10 metres away from the catcher, can stand still and be put onside when the opposition has moved forward five metres. It was seemingly started by Antoine Dupont and other teams have caught on.
At Murrayfield, France and Scotland therefore got drawn into a kicking battle, resulting in a dour passage of play. It has got to the point where World Rugby need to act and make an amendment to the law.