Gregor Townsend said he was “absolutely gutted” for his Scotland players and stunned that his side weren’t awarded a late match-winning try against France.
France came out on top in the Six Nations clash at Murrayfield, winning 20-16 but the result hinged on a controversial late call.
Referee Nic Berry and TMO Brian MacNeice took their time to deliberate on whether a try had been scored when Sam Skinner grounded the ball on the try-line, and concluded that France’s Yoram Moefana had held the ball up with his boot.
The decision sparked boos from the Scotland fans, and incredulity from the players and coaching staff.
“I’m absolutely gutted for the players,” Townsend said. “The way the game was going in the second half, I didn’t think there would be any points scored at one stage.
“We were in control but we did make an error that led to a scrum that led to a try. At the time, I thought it was going to be really difficult to score the required five points.
“It was then a fantastic effort to win the ball back, for Kyle Rowe to make his break and for Finn (Russell) to win the ball back and set us up on the tryline.
“The emotions straight after that when I saw the pictures were, ‘What a fantastic win. What a team to come back and play so well, to go behind and come back, what a great victory for our supporters’
“And then it’s taken away from you.
“It’s sport, we know that, and we have to be better. That’s why you play and coach – to win but also to get better. We have to make sure we take winning and losing out of the hands of referees and TMOs.”
Asked if he felt the officials had done their jobs properly, Townsend said that was for others to answer but he was adamant that as he watched footage and listened to the discussion between referee and TMO, he believed a try had been scored.
“We were celebrating in the coaches’ box having seen the pictures of the ball being placed down on the tryline after having been on the player’s boot,” he said.
“That was also after hearing the communication to the referee from the TMO to say that the ball started on the foot and then went on the ground.
“The ref then says, ‘I can also see that (ball) on the ground’ then their last interaction was ‘hang on, let’s look at that other angle….yeah, it’s inconclusive now, stick with your on-field decision’.
“It was TMO-driven. If the referee is seeing the pictures we were all seeing in the stadium, maybe it’s on his shoulders as well to say, ‘that’s the ball down, that’s a try’. But the TMO was the one who changed his mind and said, ‘stick with your on-field decision.’
“I don’t understand the rationale. When you see the pictures, and when you also see the conversation, they have already said between them that the ball has been placed on the tryline.”
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