Restored to the national team as captain after being mysteriously dropped following the opening defeat against Ireland, Kelly Brown struggled to contain his emotions at the end of a match Scotland came so close to wining yesterday.
Brown said: “I thought we showed a lot of good stuff and I’m incredibly proud of the boys in terms of work rate and in terms of some of our play, but ultimately we lost.
“I would just like to say a big thank you because I thought the Scottish crowd were absolutely incredible today and I am just sorry that we couldn’t quite eke out that win.
“I felt as if we had quite a lot of the control and it was just very, very disappointing to lose it in those circumstances in the last couple of minutes.
“We are just absolutely gutted, all of the players and the coaching staff. We just have to learn our lessons and move on because we have a huge game in seven days’ time.”
Scotland triumphed in the lineout battle, winning 12 of their own and losing only one while causing havoc on the French throw-in, the victors winning just five lineouts. It was a facet of the Scottish game which pleased the captain.
He said: “It is something we have been working very hard on, and overall we shaded the lineout battle, and as I have said, we showed a lot of good stuff but we didn’t win and that’s ultimately what we want to do.”
Head coach Scott Johnson’s observations about the high penalty count against Scotland – an unlucky 13 were awarded to France by Chris Pollock of New Zealand – resonated with Brown.
“I was speaking to the referee but in terms of the total penalty count I wasn’t aware of that,” said Brown. “I was constantly speaking to him and I met him yesterday and I thought we had a good link there, but as Scott Johnson says, as a team we have to look at ourselves and figure out what we can do.”
Key to the lineout control was Scott Lawson’s accurate throwing in, but even his fine personal performance could not compensate the hooker for the team’s loss.
“We are all bitterly disappointed,” said Lawson. “You play games of rugby to win, you play any sport to win, and we didn’t do that today, hence the disappointment.
“It’s the scoreline that ultimately tells, and the points on the championship board, but we did build on our performance in Italy, but we wanted to build on the result especially back home at Murrayfield.”
Lawson could not recall Scotland ever having so much control of a game against France, especially the scrum and lineout.
“You don’t often see the French pack going back like it did,” said Lawson. “They picked a big heavy pack to come at us but we stood up to that in the set piece.”
He said: “There were times when they got their momentum up and the game became unstructured and the French looked as good as they can do, but for the majority of the game we were in complete control and played the game in the right area and did everything we had to do, but ultimately there were a few facets of our game that let us down and allowed them to get back into the game and play to their strengths.”
There was no blame laid by the squad on Duncan Weir, whose pass was intercepted by Yoann Huget for his length-of-the-field try.
“Dunky had probably the biggest high of his life rugby-wise [against Italy,]” said the Newcastle Falcons player, “but unfortunately that one pass today and they go the length, but if it goes to hand we are walking in and we are in even more control than we were.”
First try scorer Stuart Hogg candidly admitted that his high kick to set up the score had a bit of fortune about it.
“We had a wee bit of luck,” said Hogg. “I knew we had advantage so I just thought I’d try the kick into the big dead ball area and luckily it paid off.
“It was a hit and hope, to be honest. There was a strong line of defence there, so we’ll keep trying these little things and if they come off we’ll keep doing them.”
“On a 50-50 call like that sometimes the TMO [television match official] will go with you if you start celebrating so if I think I have scored I’ll jump up like a little kid.”
The 13 penalties against Scotland cost the home side victory, according to the Glasgow Warriors full-back.
“To get that penalty count against us is pretty poor on our behalf,” said Hogg. “We pride ourselves on our discipline and it’s easy possession and territory for them if we give away as many penalties, and inevitably that has lost us the game today.”