French prop Mohamed Haouas landed a punch on Scotland’s man-of-the-match Jamie Ritchie during a desperate period of defending on their line which sparked a fracas from both sets of players before Kiwi referee Paul Williams pulled out the red card.
Scotland took full advantage as two tries for wing Sean Maitland and one for sub hooker Stuart McInally helped seal the win and end French dreams of a first Grand Slam in ten years.
“I didn’t see that, someone’s just showed me a photograph of it,” said Townsend after the game.
“Someone’s come in and tackled Jamie and that’s what I thought was the incident, but I’ve heard it was a punch. If you punch anyone in this game today then you’ll get red carded.
“It was a big moment for them, and a big moment for us. I was really pleased we made the most of that in the next few minutes, three points straight after and then got back down there and scored a cracking try [from Maitland].”
One man who did see it was the man on the receiving end of the blow.
“I don’t know what he was thinking about but I ended up taking the brunt of it,” said Ritchie.
“It was on my cheek, but thankfully the metal one,” he added, referring to the plate he had put in just prior to last year’s World Cup.
After narrow losses in their first two games, back-to-back wins over Italy in Rome and now France take Scotland to third in the table, and they could go top if they win in Wales in the first of the Super Saturday final matches this weekend. Townsend added: “I’ve been really encouraged right the way through the campaign.
“The two weeks before the Ireland game [a 19-12 loss in Dublin] was shown in the way we played, how physical we were and how we were able to play at a real pace and create opportunities. We didn’t win and left a couple of tries out there, but we’ve been consistent throughout.
“Even the England game [13-7 defeat at home] we were proud of how we came back in that second half.
“That showed we have been in the fight in those two defeats. These two wins showed the mentality and confidence to get out and find a way to win, but there’s more to come.
“You get confidence when you see the rewards you get for doing something, and the way we’re training, it really gives me a lot of encouragement.”
Skipper Stuart Hogg, meanwhile, reflected on what he considered one of his best moments in a Scotland jersey.
“It’s definitely up there,” said the full-back. “We talked before the game – great memories are made by great opportunities.
“Today was a great opportunity for us as a 23 and as a country, to achieve something special. I believe we’ve done that.”
The captain added: “I’m chuffed to bits with that. We worked incredibly hard to give ourselves every opportunity of winning.
“I’m incredibly proud of the boys. We took it to France. We’ve got a good group of leaders and we trust each other.”
Hogg also sang the praises of 23-year-old stand-off Adam Hastings, who bounced back from a trying day in Rome with an assured display in the playmaker role.
“Adam is a class act. He works incredibly hard to drive standards around the park,” said Hogg. “You could see that in today’s performance. He’s adjusting really well, not overplaying.”
Townsend added: “He is building. Any stand-off’s game will have some areas for improvement but he has had some good experiences. He should be a better player for those.”