Gregor Townsend has joined a chorus of Scottish voices protesting against the decision not to award Scotland what would have been a winning try at the death against France. For five agonising minutes, with time up, Murrayfield watched replay after replay of Sam Skinner’s attempt to ground the ball, while the referee, Nic Berry, consulted the television match official.
“It was clearly not the right decision they came to in the end,” the Scotland head coach said. “I think it was the TMO who influenced the referee more. They’ve got quite a big screen in that corner, so it should be the referee who decides. They’ve taken a lot of time to pore over it, and we can all see the ball’s over the line. I don’t think I’m being biased. I think everybody sees that.”
Should Scotland have been in that situation in the first place? They had dominated the match, particularly in the first half, when they opened the scoring with a brilliantly constructed try for Ben White, featuring a confident contribution from the debutant full-back, Harry Paterson. But they turned around only three points ahead, after a reply by Gaël Fickou on the half-hour and a failure to extend their lead just before the break, following a yellow card for Uini Atonio.
That gave France, who struggled to find any rhythm, a much more realistic target, which they hit courtesy of a brilliant individual try by Louis Bielle-Biarrey with 10 minutes to play. A second Thomas Ramos penalty with less than five minutes remaining meant Scotland needed that try to win.
In the moment, the referee felt the ball had been held up, so he asked the TMO for conclusive proof otherwise. Even by Scotland’s standards, what followed was a cruel agony to endure.
During a five-minute inquest, the verdict changed from no try to try, then back to no try. There was footage that suggested the ball was probably grounded. Berry double-checked with the TMO, Brian MacNeice, that he should change his on-field decision but MacNeice felt there was still room for doubt. Finally, he found that there was not sufficient proof of a grounding.
Had the referee’s first instinct been to award the try, the outcome would have been different, as there was no conclusive evidence to rule against either. On such moments do seasons turn.
It was not the only controversy involving the use of technology. George Turner became the first player in the Six Nations to be withdrawn for an impact that breached the threshold of force, as measured by the instrumented mouthguards the players are using this championship. He was withdrawn for a head impact assessment but looked less than impressed.
“It looked a fairly normal tackle,” Townsend said. “The big ball-carrier ran into George, who tackled hard, but George was taken off because of the mouthguard alert. We just have to watch what we’re doing here with bringing technology in that might have an influence for not the correct reasons, let’s say.”
He could have said that again. And did.2024-02-11T22:02:58Z dg43tfdfdgfd