Scotland lock Tim Swinson has pleaded his innocence after conceding the late penalty which handed France victory at Murrayfield.
The Glasgow second-rower was penalised for failing to release Les Bleus substitute Alexandre Flanquart as the visitors sought a late score that would keep their slim RBS Six Nations title hopes alive.
Jean-Marc Doussain slotted over the penalty with just 90 seconds remaining to clinch a 19-17 win for France but Swinson insists he did nothing wrong – a viewpoint backed up by TV replays. However, the 27-year-old refused to point the finger of blame at referee Chris Pollock for the Scots’ latest heartbreaker. He said: “It is tough to go into the last few minutes of a game and lose it that way. Personally I don’t think I was near the ball. But then at the same time the referee is the guy there making the decisions and you have got to respect that. That’s the way it is.
“That doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing. I’m gutted by the way it happened. However, one of the values of our sport is respect for the referee so we just have to accept it.”
After starting off their Six Nations campaign in dismal fashion with humiliating defeats by Ireland and England, Scotland have at least claimed back some credibility with their last-gasp win over Italy in Rome and Saturday’s brave display against Philippe Saint-André’s men. They led the stunned French 14-9 at the break after Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour had both scored to cancel out three Maxime Machenaud penalties.
Hogg sent an up-and-under into the French in-goal area but watched with glee as Yoann Huget and Brice Dulin ran smack into each other as both had eyes only for the high ball. As it came loose, Hogg was first on the scene to tap down and put Scotland on the scoreboard after 11 minutes.
Seymour’s try, meanwhile, was a thing of beauty as he finished off a slick three-man move involving Duncan Weir and Matt Scott which cut the visitors’ defence to ribbons.
However, Weir – the drop-goal hero from the win over the Azzurri two weeks ago – became the Murrayfield fall-guy as his ambitious pass to Alex Dunbar was cut out by Huget, who romped 80 yards upfield to score under the posts and cut the legs away from a burgeoning Scottish performance.
Weir did nail a nerveless penalty to nudge his side back in front but failed with another attempt from near enough 50 yards which would have surely secured Scotland their first win in eight years against the French. As it was, when Swinson was deemed to have infringed, it gave Doussain his chance to be the match-winner and France will now host Ireland in Paris looking to claim their second title in four years.
But Swinson insists Scotland can still take pride from their narrow – yet painful – defeat. “There are huge positives for us to take out of this match, especially for our pack,” he said. “The two tries we set up were fantastic. “It was a great kick by Hoggy to set up the first and Tommy Seymour’s was the result of fantastic backs play. This is a journey that we are on, a journey to the World Cup. We are always improving and we have got to aim to continue that.
“It’s good that people can now see that we are improving. We have known that is the case but it is good to now be able to show what we can do.”