Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Weir showed character - Johnson

Duncan Weir's pass was intercepted for France's try

Scotland head coach Scott Johnson refused to point the finger of blame at stand-off Duncan Weir after his blunder cut the legs away from an impressive Dark Blues display against France.

Weir - the drop-goal hero from the Scots' dramatic last-gasp win over Italy a fortnight ago - went from saint to sinner in as he gifted Les Bleus wing Yoann Huget a try seven minutes after the break at Murrayfield.

With the Scots five points up, the 22-year-old Glasgow stand-off tried to play in team-mate Alex Dunbar but was left to watch in horror as Huget intercepted before darting 80 yards to score.

Weir did make amends with a nerveless penalty from wide on the left to put Scotland back in front but Tim Swinson was penalised for a foul at a ruck with 90 seconds left, giving French kicker Jean Marc Doussain a simple kick to clinch a 19-17 win which kept them in the hunt for the RBS 6 Nations title.

But Johnson said: "It goes two ways with Duncy. With the intercept, sure, he fell down. But the look at the guy's character. He stood up for the kick that put his side back in front.

"I like character. Sometimes it's not about execution. I can work with character. We can develop skill.

"We have backed Duncy. We haven't put another 10 on the bench. We're trying to get a bit of growth out of him. He has got a basic skill set that we like.

"Yeah okay, he was unfortunate. He chose the wrong option, the wrong execution. But he showed good resolve at the end. I'll take that every day."

Scotland had led 14-9 at the break as converted tries from Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour edged out three penalties by Maxime Machenaud for France.

Hogg saw his up and under spill loose when Huget and Brice Dulin collided as they both chased the high ball and the full-back made the most of their gaffe when he darted in to touchdown, while Seymour finished off a click three-man move that cut the visitors' defence to ribbons.

But Swinson's late error cost the Scots their first win over Philippe Saint-Andre's side in eight years.

Scotland have now conceded 50 penalties in their four matches so far - more than any of the other five nations.

But Johnson claims his side have been hard done by.

"We are on the back of an 11-2 penalty count at half-time again," he said. "It was something similar in Italy.

"We have got to look at ourselves, first and foremost. But two weeks on the bounce we have had huge differences in the penalty count. That swing is what I struggle with.

"There is just too many of these happening to us in important parts of the game."

Scotland have now lost three of their four matches and have only Italy beneath them in the championship standings.

They did show some signs of promise but that only made defeat even more bitter for the head coach.

He said: "We are gutted, absolutely gutted. But this is part of the growing pains. We all get frustrated about a game we should have won.

"There is no doubt about it - I felt we were the better team and we showed great resolve not to sink on the back of that penalty count.

"Instead, we dominated the contest but sometimes the scoreboard does not always reflect that. Those growing pains hurt."

Captain Kelly Brown added: "I thought we showed some good stuff and I'm incredibly proud of the boys.

"But we lost and we are absolutely gutted. I felt as if we had quite a lot of control but it is so disappointing to lose it in the last couple of minutes."

Scotland now travel to Wales next week while France have a shot at claiming their second championship in four years when they host Ireland in Paris.

His side may have left it late but Saint-Andre was happy, saying: "Sometimes just to win is nice.

"After four games we have won three games and lost one. Now we can have a final match against Ireland at the Stade de France with a title at stake.

"I must congratulate Scotland - they were fantastic. But my team carried out for the full 80 minutes and we got the win we deserved."

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