Anthony Brown, PA
Gregor Townsend was proud of his Scotland players for producing their “best performance of the championship” even though their perfect start to the Six Nations campaign ended with defeat away to France.
The Scots – who had beaten Wales and England in their first two games – were 19-0 down after a torrid opening 20-minute period in Stade de France that saw both teams shown red cards.
However, Townsend was pleased with the way they rallied to get back to within four points of their hosts before the French scored a late try to secure a 32-21 win.
An absorbing encounter. A huge effort.#AsOne | @DoveMenUK pic.twitter.com/dg8hSSlI5P
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 26, 2023
“I was very pleased with the performance, I thought it was our best performance of the championship so far,” said Townsend.
“I’m disappointed with the result but proud of how the players played, and proud of how they controlled the situation, the emotions, and how they adapted to being a man down and how much belief they had in each other.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t take the two or three opportunities which would have led to us winning the game.
“I feel we have improved from our previous game, there will be so much which will come out of this game for us. There will be things we have to do better but there will be belief in how we played against one of the best teams in the world at their home stadium.”
Asked why the Scots found themselves 19-0 down, Townsend said: “The first phase, we didn’t defend well enough around the ruck area for their first try.
“Then we took a little while to get back into it when we went a man down and then there was an interception (from a Finn Russell pass, for the third try).
“During that period, especially when we got ourselves back into it, we had a lot of the game. We had the ball over the line twice, it was held up once and bounced over the line, and another where France were penalised for offside and we didn’t score in the corner.
“It would have been good to get in at half-time and been closer on the scoreboard but the conversation at half-time was that we were here to win and this is how we are going to do it.
“I felt the momentum was all with us in the second half and it’s just a pity that on a couple of occasions we didn’t build on the fact we got to four points behind and didn’t really seal the deal.”
Lock Grant Gilchrist was sent off after just seven minutes for catching Anthony Jelonch in the face with his shoulder, although the numbers were evened up soon afterwards when France had Mohamed Haouas red-carded.
Townsend had no complaints about his own player’s dismissal.
“If you tackle in the head area then you are looking straight away at a red,” he said. “It wasn’t his intention, he was second man in the tackle and it’s very rare for us to have any yellow or red cards in the way we tackle so Grant will have to learn from that as second man in there.
“If he’s upright then he can’t go in with his shoulder, he’s just got to tackle lower.”
Townsend heaped praise on centre Huw Jones after he scored two tries, bringing his tally in this year’s Six Nations to three.
“In the last two weeks I’ve felt he’d have a breakthrough game as he’d been training so well and today was that breakthrough game,” he said.