Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend praised his side for their “best performance” in the Six Nations, despite losing 32-21 to France in Paris.
Townsend’s side came into the clash in good form, winning their first two games against England and Wales, but were disrupted early on after second-row Grant Gilchrist was sent off for a dangerous tackle in the seventh minute.
Red card chaos
The numbers would balance out minutes later as Mohamed Haouas was also red-carded for head-to-head contact with Ben White, making him the first player to get sent off twice in Six Nations history.
Once the dust settled after the first quarter Scotland found themselves 19-0 down but did tremendously well to pull the game back to within four points. However, a late Gael Fickou try denied the Scots a chance at winning and gave Les Bleus a hard-earned bonus point win.
Townsend admitted to one or two disappointing outcomes but was still delighted with the effort shown by his stars.
“I was very pleased with the performance, I thought it was our best performance of the championship so far,” said Townsend.
“I’m disappointed with the result but proud of how the players played, and proud of how they controlled the situation, the emotions, and how they adapted to being a man down and how much belief they had in each other.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t take the two or three opportunities which would have led to us winning the game.
“I feel we have improved from our previous game, there will be so much which will come out of this game for us. There will be things we have to do better but there will be belief in how we played against one of the best teams in the world at their home stadium.”
Townsend broke down why his side went 19-0 behind and felt it was a pity Scotland could not complete the comeback.
“The first phase, we didn’t defend well enough around the ruck area for their first try,” he said.
“Then we took a little while to get back into it when we went a man down and then there was an interception (from a Finn Russell pass, for the third try).
“During that period, especially when we got ourselves back into it, we had a lot of the game. We had the ball over the line twice, it was held up once and bounced over the line, and another where France were penalised for offside and we didn’t score in the corner.
“It would have been good to get in at half-time and been closer on the scoreboard but the conversation at half-time was that we were here to win and this is how we are going to do it.
“I felt the momentum was all with us in the second half and it’s just a pity that on a couple of occasions we didn’t build on the fact we got to four points behind and didn’t really seal the deal.”
The tactician had no complaints about Gilchrist’s sending off and insists the second-row will have to learn from the incident.
“If you tackle in the head area then you are looking straight away at a red,” he said. “It wasn’t his intention, he was second man in the tackle and it’s very rare for us to have any yellow or red cards in the way we tackle so Grant will have to learn from that as second man in there.
“If he’s upright then he can’t go in with his shoulder, he’s just got to tackle lower.”
Huw Jones had a brilliant game, scoring a brace of tries against Les Bleus, the kind of performance Townsend was expecting from the centre.
“In the last two weeks I’ve felt he’d have a breakthrough game as he’d been training so well and today was that breakthrough game,” he said.
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Next up for Scotland is a visit from the world’s best as Ireland travels to Murrayfield on March 12.