Sunday 17 December 2017

Cotter perplexed by Russell's fluffed conversion

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter. Photo: Reuters
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter. Photo: Reuters

Gavin McCafferty

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter could not explain what went wrong with Finn Russell's bizarre missed conversion after his side lost 22-16 to France in Paris.

Russell hurried a kick from underneath the posts as he attempted to put Scotland 18-13 ahead early in the second-half following Tim Swinson's try.

As the ball fell flat off the tee, the Glasgow stand-off kicked it underneath the bar from close range.

There were suggestions that resource coach Nathan Hines had urged Russell to take the kick quickly amid French appeals for the try to be reviewed. They had claimed there was a push on full-back Scott Spedding as Tommy Seymour chased his own dangerous lob before feeding Swinson.

But Cotter said: "I haven't asked the question or found out. It hasn't been discussed yet. If the gap was only two points in the game you might be asking a bit more, but it wasn't. That will be something we will have a look at."

A succession of injuries proved more costly, including an ankle problem which forced skipper Greig Laidlaw off after 25 minutes.

Deputy captain John Barclay went off before half-time and his replacement, John Hardie, soon made way for Swinson.

Allan Dell quickly followed and Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson also went off under the attention of team doctor James Robson, while the impressive Alex Dunbar had a long spell off the park following a head knock.

The stoppages contributed to a scrappy second-half and France used their physical advantage in the final 20 minutes as they put Scotland under intense pressure following an even opening hour.

However, the Scotland defence stood firm against the onslaught and the difference proved to be two penalties in the final nine minutes from Camille Lopez, who took his tally to 17 points.

When asked whether the injuries had taken their toll, Cotter said: "We train for these type of scenarios. They are not ideal, but I certainly wouldn't use that as an excuse.

"I thought the players showed a lot of courage out there in defence. Not to take any try in the last 10 minutes when they were on our line, I thought we defended well and showed some real character.

"There were bits of the game where we didn't link particularly well and we will certainly have a look at how we can improve that. But the boys dug in hard.

"We lose a couple of players and we regroup reasonably well. It wasn't perfect, we came second best and kept it very tight. We just needed perhaps one more possession and field position to apply pressure and we didn't get it, so credit to them (France)."

Although a first win in Paris this century was definitely in sight at one stage, Scotland at least came away with a losing bonus point and the knowledge they outscored their hosts on tries, with Stuart Hogg and Gael Fickou touching down in the first-half.

France coach Guy Noves was relieved to get a much-needed victory.

"We had lost three games in a row so we needed the victory, that was all that mattered," he said.

"Scotland displayed good quality, they gave us a hard time, especially in the rucks. We lost too many balls and showed our weaknesses in the 22.

"But I'm very happy for the players. Last week we lost to England in the final 15 minutes and I'm delighted to win this game in the final 10 minutes."

Irish Independent

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