Saturday’s result was tough to take and I am still really gutted. Defeat is a little easier to take when the opposition has played really well against you on but on this occasion we beat ourselves. This was a major missed opportunity.
A couple of missed tackles and some dropped passes really cost us and that is so frustrating. France may have played some good rugby and kicked well but we had several chances to score and with no pressure on the boys were still dropping balls.
Our scrum was outstanding at times against one of the best scrimmaging outfits around but they defended exceptionally well at the lineout. Our plan was to attack lock Lionel Nallet because some of our homework suggested he didn’t normally jump but all of a sudden he was jumping like a salmon. We managed to straighten things out after the first couple of throws but you have to give credit to France for the way they were able to disrupt us there in the first few minutes.
A couple of missed tackles let them in for tries which was really disappointing but we never felt out of the contest. We knew that we just needed to get a score ourselves and the pattern of the match would change but a couple of tries went begging and we went into the break still chasing the game. But the effort was clearly taking its toll on France because we could see that they were on their knees. With ten minutes to go in the first half they were clearly gone - we had given ourselves a mountain to climb but were confident of turning it around.
There was no panic at half time and we were still full of belief and convinced that the game was still there to be won. We raised our game after the break knowing that we had to take it to them and we did just that. Suddenly France were going down every couple of minutes with injuries desperately trying to get a break of some kind.
Ben Foden’s try fuelled our belief and the comeback was on when Marc Cueto scored but left it just a little bit too late. If only we had scored – just once – in that first half. It’s strange how a team’s psyche changes through a game. The longer you manage to deny a team any kind of score, the stronger you get and it is easy to defend, defend and defend. But when your defence has been breached and someone has crossed that line thing change psychologically and suddenly you feel more vulnerable. I don’t know why, but it does.
Steve Thompson writes exclusively for ESPNscrum.com, one of the world’s leading Rugby websites. To read the column in full, visit www.espnscrum.com