Rugby rules are rules but heart sinks when scrum-halves hop like someone who has been bitten by an insect

Scotland’s defeat and the manner of it will linger – but we made poor decisions too

All right, we were robbed at the end. There have of course always been refereeing mistakes, but they are more irritating and more culpable now that we have a TMO. All one can reasonably say about last week’s blunder is that it is hard to understand, therefore hard to accept. Still, it was never likely that the appeal to World Rugby would meet with a satisfying response. The final whistle blows and the score at that moment is the score in the record books. Tough.

Of course, we shouldn’t have needed that score. The game should have been won by then. We made three, even four, important mistakes.

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The first was declining to kick a penalty goal from a position in front of the posts when we were 10-3 up in the last minute of the first half. Second, having declined to take three all-but-certain points, we elected to go for a set scrum, poor judgement even if France were a man down. Scrums are always risky; you never know hoe the referee will judge them.

Scrum-halves are too quick to turn to the box kick.Scrum-halves are too quick to turn to the box kick.
Scrum-halves are too quick to turn to the box kick.

Third – though this is debatable – it seemed we were more eager in the second-half to protect our lead rather than seeking to extend it. Admittedly Finn Russell attempted at drop a goal – good – but made a hash of it. It is not, I think, in this team’s character to play safe, but that was what we attempted, and it didn’t come off.

Fourth, in that last minute, when indeed we scored a try that should have been awarded, it seemed even then that instead engaging in an arm-wrestle, we might have been wiser to move the ball away from the pile of bodies. It’s not after all as if we don’t have try-scoring backs. Ah well, a game which was ours to take eluded us.

There were other unsatisfactory things; the long session of kick-tennis (or kick ping-pong as the French prefer to call it) between Finn and Thomas Ramos was as boring as a wet afternoon in Galashiels, but we must blame the law relating to offside, not the players. It happens too often in two many matches, and some amendment of the offside law in needed. Urgently needed.

Then as in almost every pro game now there were too many box-kicks. The heart sinks while you watch a scrum-half easing the ball out of a ruck with one foot while he hops on the other leg like someone who has just been bitten by some insect. Box-kicks may make sense but they are a blight on the game.

What’s the answer? Well perhaps, as so often it may be found in a return to an old law. This permitted a player to make a mark anywhere on the field, not only in the 22. You were also, I think, allowed to drop a goal direct from a mark.

Meanwhile, setting aside the criticisms and disappointment there was much to admire last Saturday, not only a lovely try in the first half. But a performance that was for 70 minutes competent. The forwards had a good game collectively. The line-out, a shambles in Cardiff the week before, was excellent, so good indeed that it might have been sensible for Ben White to have gone several times for touch rather than box-kicking, Young Harry Paterson had a fine match. Not many Scottish full-backs had made a more impressive international debut. There was a brilliant run from deep by Kyle Rowe, further evidence of our back-three strength. He made a dazzling run from our own 22 late in the game. I suppose he may be the fastest player in the team – but it was still disappointing that nobody was reading the play well enough to find a way to be up in support of him.

On the whole it was a competent rather than brilliant performance, rendered unsatisfactory only by the confusion at the end, concerning which it’s fair to say that the result would have been what it was if their had been no television match official. One often complains about the number of reviews and the time they sometimes take, but there’s more cause for complaint when they still come up with the wrong decision. But there we are. Now for England.