Scotland captain Stuart Hogg admitted he had made a “schoolboy error” after a failure to find touch denied his side the chance of a dramatic draw against France at Murrayfield on Sunday.
There were already 80 minutes on the clock when Scotland, seven points down and needing a converted try to draw level were awarded a penalty by English referee Wayne Barnes.
At that stage it was imperative full-back Hogg find touch with his kick to give Scotland the chance of a line-out near the French try-line.
But his overhit effort went dead, allowing France to run out 22-15 winners, with ‘Les Bleus’ on course to play in the Autumn Nations Cup final in a fortnight provided they do not suffer a shock Pool B reverse against Italy next week.
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Scotland had been bidding to win a sixth straight Test for the first time since David Sole’s celebrated 1990 Grand Slam team.
But it was a case of second time unlucky for the Scots after they denied France a Six Nations Grand Slam at Murrayfield in March — the only defeat Fabien Galthie’s men have suffered this year.
In a match where goal-kickers dominated, powerful France centre Viremi Vakatawa scored the only try early in the second half.
But France could not put Scotland away, with the hosts in the game right until Hogg’s agonising mistake at the finish.
– ‘In control for 78 minutes’ – “Yeah, I made a schoolboy error it’s as simple that,” Hogg told reporters of his wayward kick. “But look, I thought we played well for 78 minutes of that game.
“We’re old enough and ugly enough now to realise we’ve made a mistake. I don’t need to be told a million times about it.
“I thought for 78 minutes of that game we were in control.
“But, unfortunately, we’ve made a couple of mistakes and you can’t do that in international rugby. It’s as simple as that.” Hogg, who last season helped Exeter clinch an English Premiership and European Champions Cup double, added: “We shut France down. They wanted to bring a running game but all they did was kick to us.
“But the frustrating thing is we know we’re a lot better than that. “It’s fine people making mistakes but it’s the fact that sometimes we compound our errors and that’s what cost us.
“We’ve not turned into a bad team overnight. We know where we’re going wrong and we’re excited about our next challenge.” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend took some comfort from the resilience his players showed while making France sweat for their victory.
“If you look over 2020 we have shown commitment, togetherness and shown we are tough to break down and beat,” he said. “That was another game that underlined that.
“But we had penalties against us and errors of execution that we know we have to eradicate if we are to be a team that wins these games and reaches its potential.”
ENGLAND NOT SATISFIED AFTER VICTORY
Maro Itoje wants England to make more of their dominance after an 18-7 win over Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup at Twickenham on Saturday.
England’s second successive victory in Pool A, following a 40-0 rout of Georgia, saw the Six Nations champions surge into an 18-0 lead with half an hour left after two Jonny May tries, including a stunning solo effort from deep inside his own 22, and a couple of penalties from captain Owen Farrell.
Yet for much of the a match it was as if England wanted to test their defence, with the hosts making a staggering 238 tackles compared to Ireland’s 72, according to the official statistics.
At no stage did England look like losing, yet a winning margin of 11 points did not seem a fair reflection of how they defeated Ireland for the fourth match in a row.
“That’s the next step really for us,” said Itoje, named man-of-the-match after an impressive display that saw the lock make 24 tackles of his own.
“It’s important to remember that Ireland are a serious team. We weren’t playing against mugs out there,” the Saracens second row added of a side coached by Andy Farrell, Owen’s father.
England will be assured of finishing top of Pool A and a place in the showpiece match of December’s finals weekend if they win away in Wales on November 28.
WALES READY FOR ‘FORMIDABLE’ ENGLAND TEST
Wayne Pivac said several of the players who helped Wales end their six-match losing streak with an 18-0 win over Georgia had put their hands up for the game against England.
The New Zealander admitted it would be a far tougher test back at Llanelli next weekend as England are a “formidable side”.
England will arrive for their final pool game in the Autumn Nations Cup on the back of convincing victories over Georgia and Ireland.
Pivac professed himself happy with the performance of a side that had three players making their Test debuts in the starting XV.
The Welsh scored two tries — one through the impressive teenager Louis Rees-Zammit — but it was a performance that will have satisfied neither the critics nor the fans.
Pivac’s Test victories since he replaced Warren Gatland after they reached the World Cup semi-finals last year, having earlier achieved the Six Nations Grand Slam, have been against the Georgians and Italy.
Pivac, though, believed it was a “step in the right direction” and conditions were unfavourable for throwing the ball around.
“England are a formidable side with a lot of talent,” he said at his post-match press conference.
“They are a big side and are going to be a handful.
“We need to take the positives out of this tonight and build on that. “I think that across the board we took a step in the right direction. “On a drier day the dents we made in their defence we would have been more dangerous.”