‘We can’t let the referee decide’ – Scotland’s Finn Russell bemoans after dramatic defeat

Jared Wright
Scotland vs France.Scotland's co-captain Finn Russell pleads Scotlands case .as Referee Nic Berry (RA) and officials check the disallowed try on the screens.

Scotland vs France.Scotland's co-captain Finn Russell pleads Scotlands case .as Referee Nic Berry (RA) and officials check the disallowed try on the screens.

Scotland co-captain Finn Russell admits that his side should not have got themselves into the position where the officials effectively decided the outcome of their Six Nations clash with France.

A late Louis Bielle-Biarrey try, converted by Thomas Ramos, who also added a penalty, gave France a four-point lead in the final minutes of the match – left Scotland needing a try to win the game, having led for most of the contest.

Scotland were convinced that substitute Sam Skinner had scored a match-winning try in the game’s last action; however, referee Nic Berry’s initial call was ‘no try’, and after several minutes of deliberating with TMO Brian MacNeice amid incredible tension, his decision was upheld and France won the fixture 20-16.

MacNiece was unable to provide conclusive images of the ball being ground, which meant he could not prompt Berry to award the try – a decision that left Scotland fans and head coach Gregor Townsend livid.

“We can’t let the referee decide”

Meanwhile, Russell conceded the game should never have boiled down to that last-gasp decision.

“Personally I believe it was a try at the end, but it’s up to the referee to decide that,” the fly-half said.

“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.”

Although disappointed, Russell believes it was a sign of Scotland’s resilience that they almost dug out victory despite relinquishing their long-held lead in the closing stages.

“It was a bit of magic from France (for Bielle-Biarrey’s 70th-minute try), but I think the way we got back into the game and the way I believe that we scored, it shows the character we’ve got,” he said.

“We didn’t lose belief when we fell four points down with three minutes left. I’m proud of the boys for the performance but we need to take our learnings from it going into the England game.”

Looking ahead

Scotland will now take a break for a week before the Six Nations returns. The Scots will put the Calcutta Cup on the line when they host old rivals England at Murrayfield on February 24.

“We’ll take it easy next week,” said Russell. “Some of the boys have got to train, some haven’t. We just need some time away from rugby. It’s an intense competition.

“We’ll take some time away and then come back to get ready for that England game. A massive challenge awaits us and we’ll need to be ready.”

Stunning debut

Scotland were forced into a late change on the morning of the clash with France after Kyle Steyn’s wife went into labour.

With Steyn missing the match, Edinburgh back Harry Paterson was brought into the starting line-up and made his Test debut at full-back.

“It’s one of the best debuts I’ve ever seen,” said head coach Gregor Townsend. “Going up against that French backline on a wet day at Murrayfield, he was excellent.

“I gave him a heads-up that he could be playing about 9am then confirmed it at 10am.

“To play like that was fantastic and gives us a lot of encouragement about where Harry can go over these next few years.

“He knew he’d have a lot of kicks to field due to the way France play and with the weather being wet, but he just got stronger and stronger as the game went on.

“But Kyle Rowe deserves a mention as well. That was only his second Test start and, like Harry, I thought he was excellent.

“We are building depth in the back three.”

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