Scots stung by 'brutal lesson' after snatching defeat from jaws of victory
Scotland 17 France 19
Published 10/03/2014 | 02:30
What is the French for deja vu? A broad smile across the face of Philippe Saint-Andre, that's what.
When France wing Yoann Huget plucked Scotland fly-half Duncan Weir's ill-considered pass from the air and raced away for his 45th-minute try, France coach Saint-Andre must surely have been taking a more leisurely stroll down memory lane as he recalled doing exactly the same thing to the Scots at Murrayfield 20 years ago. Then, the Scotland No 10 was a young Gregor Townsend, whose subsequent gilded career should reassure Weir that recovery is possible.
France won that 1994 game 20-12 and Townsend was panned for his part in the defeat.
Weir's rehabilitation had begun even before the end of this game. Faced with a penalty kick that was just outside Greig Laidlaw's range, Weir volunteered for the task and nailed it from 40 metres, nudging Scotland back in front with 18 minutes left.
That they could not hold that lead was not his fault. Instead, the blame must lie with the forwards, who had the better of the French in almost every area but were slaughtered by referee Craig Pollock and a penalty count of 15-5 against them.
With a little more discipline and a little less naivety, the Scots would have been out of sight by half-time; instead they kept France in the game by coughing up easy points.
None simpler than the kick that clinched France's improbable victory, two minutes from the end. Almost straight in front of the posts, Scotland lock Tim Swinson was penalised for holding on in a tackle, and France's replacement scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain stepped up to hammer the ball home.
The final scoreline made a mockery of Scotland's domination of possession and territory, their edge in the scrum and the shambles they made of the French line-out, but it was the price they paid for spending so long in Pollock's bad books.
The penalty imbalance was all the more striking for the fact that so many of the awards against Scotland came after they had taken the ball into contact.
"That is something we will be looking to address," said prop Geoff Cross.
"It is a brutal but useful lesson in controlling the game, keeping pressure on the opposition and protecting yourself from giving away opportunities." (© Daily Telegraph, London)