Five times Scotland felt robbed by major decisions as Six Nations defeat to France stirs painful memories
With the visitors leading 16-20, a stirring late attack saw Scotland cross the French line in the dying seconds with Sam Skinner attempting to ground the ball amid a ruck of bodies. Referee Nic Berry's onfield decision was not to award a try but after consulting the TMO, video replays appeared to show that the ball was eventually grounded after initially landing on a French foot. Despite both TMO and Berry appearing to agree the ball had been grounded, further discussion saw them talk themselves out of awarding Scotland a try that would have clinched victory due to "inconclusive" evidence.
That decision left Scotland feeling robbed with head coach Gregor Townsend and co-captains Finn Russell and Rory Darge both in no doubt that a try had been scored - a view backed up by many pundits and observers – and the majority of the crowd inside Murrayfield. It is not the first time Scotland have been on the wrong end of a controversial decision. Here are five painful memories from the past where Scotland were left feeling victims of a miscarraige of justice…
Scotland 34 Australia 35 - Rugby World Cup 2015
Arguably the most heart-breaking and controversial refereeing error to ever befall Scotland occured in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham in 2015. Scotland were heavy underdogs but a Mark Bennett interception try with seven minutes to go seemed to have secured a famous victory and a place in the semi-final. However, with two minutes left to play, South African referee Craig Joubert awarded a penalty to Australia for Scotland playing the ball in an offside position. At the time, the TMO could not be used to review the incident, so Joubert had no choice but to stick with his on field decision, even though TV replays on the big screen showed the ball had hit an Australian player and the wrong call had been made. Foley kicked the penalty to give Australia a 35-34 point victory and the game finished with Joubert beating a hasty retreat from the ground. World Rugby later released a statement saying that Joubert had got it wrong to rub salt in Scotland wounds.
South Africa 29 Scotland 15, Test match, 2006
Scotland were in contention for a first-ever Test triumph in South Africa when a highly controversial refereeing decision swung the game in the home side's favour. Scotland already had a first-half Simon Webster try ruled out for a knock-on when the same fate befell Chris Paterson as the game entered the final quarter. Paterson had dashed clear on the interception to bag what looked like a crucial score but Scotland joy turned to despair when English referee Tony Spreadbury stretched the advantage rule to the extreme by ruling that Webster had committed a knock-on almost a minute earlier close to his own line. Not only that, replays appeared to show the Scotland centre had finger-tipped the ball backwards. The score and conversion would have brought Scotland to within three points of South Africa with momentum in their favour against a backdrop of booing from the home fans inside the EPRU Stadium in Port Elizabeth. But instead of awarding Scotland a try, the Boks were given a scrum five metres out and seconds later, Fourie du Preez wriggled over for the home side's only touchdown. It was a 12-point swing that had a major say in the outcome. "Who would have thought that the number two side in the world would have needed a couple of dodgy decisions to win?" said Scotland head coach Frank Hadden afterwards. "I thought we played well enough to win the game."
Scotland 24 Wales 25 - Six Nations 2021
Scotland looked set to follow up their shock victory over England in the opening round with a win over Wales at Murrayfield when a controversial call went against them. The hosts were leading 17-15 when Zander Fagerson was shown a red card 13 minutes into the second period by referee Matthew Carley who ruled that the Glasgow forward had made contact with Wales prop Wyn Jones' head as he cleared a ruck. Karl Dickson, the television match official, seemed to suggest a yellow card would have sufficed for Fagerson but Carley thought otherwise. Wales took advantage to edge a single-point victory that helped them go on to clinch the title and fatally damaged Scotland's hopes. In his post-match interview, Scotland flanker Hamish Watson described Fagerson's red card as “an absolutely dreadful call” and insisted the incident did not even warrant a penalty, let alone a red card. Watson later backtracked and admitted his comments were "poor". Former Scotland forward-turned-pundit John Barclay also agreed the red card was harsh. "I think it looks much, much worse slowed down," he said. "When you see that in normal speed it doesn’t look like a red card, for me that’s a yellow card. I’m all for protecting the players, where is he meant to put his shoulder?”
France 16 Scotland 9 - Six Nations 2005
Scottish hearts were broken in the cruelest fashion in Paris after two controversial decisions cost them a likely victory and left head coach Matt Williams incandescent with rage. Scotland were deservedly leading 9-6 midway through the second half when Ally Hogg broke through to score a seemingly good try only for the touch judge to rule that he had put a foot in touch, though video replays suggested otherwise. To make matters worse, Jon Petrie was controversially sent to the sin bin eight minutes from the end - with the visitors still clinging to their three-point lead - having been deemed offside at a breakdown in the shadow of his own post, although, again, replays suggested that the Scotland openside was unfortunate. Damien Traille's late try then handed France a narrow win. "It was a case of mistaken identity,' said Williams. "Jon was nowhere near the ball, and we will fight to have the yellow card rescinded. As for the Ally Hogg incident, I have already seen it on the video many times and I will remember it until I am an old man."
South Africa 18 Scotland 3 - Rugby World Cup 2023
Scotland were well beaten in the end by the eventual World Cup winners but they were left questioning whether the outcome could have been different had South Africa received what appeared to be a stick-on red card. There was just two minutes on the clock when Jesse Kriel clashed heads with Jack Dempsey while attempting a tackle. Despite England's Tom Curry seeing red for a similar collision the previous day, the South African star escaped any punishment with television match official Ben Whitehouse deciding to take no action. Pundits and fans alike slammed the decision and head coach Gregor Townsend admitted frustration with the lack of consistency in the decision making. "I saw it about two screens away," he said. "It looked like a head-on-head collision and I was expecting the TMO to come in." Former Scotland forward John Barclay was in no doubt over the decision. He said on ITV: "The confusion is you hear captains speak to the referees and they say, ‘We are always looking’. You are two minutes into the game and we’ve got an incident that is a red card. It’s a red card."
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