Beware Scottish rugby flank forwards indignantly pleading their innocence regarding offside in an international match. As someone once joked, most Scottish forwards were born offside. But in Paris on Saturday, Glasgow's John Petrie may just have become that rarest of species, a wronged Scottish flanker.
The yellow card Welsh referee Nigel Williams waved at Petrie with 10 minutes left at Stade de France, decided the game. Scotland, ahead 9-6 at the time, could not hold on with 14 men. And long into the evening, Petrie continued to deny he had been guilty of any misdemeanour. "He blew up and said I had been blatantly offside. But I am convinced I didn't do anything. Whether someone else had, I don't know. I was further out in the back line and I didn't think I came out of the line or flew up particularly quickly." What was undeniable, in Petrie's words, was that the decision cost Scotland the game.
"I cannot help but feel that decision cost us the match. That makes it very difficult for me to deal with, especially when I know I didn't do anything wrong. We should have won the game and we realised that the more it went on. We worked our socks off to smother France defensively but now we'll have to do something similar against Ireland on Saturday. A lot of the pressure we were putting on them was one reason France couldn't get into the game. It's bitterly disappointing to do so much and get denied right at the end."
Scotland threw away what would have been a 9-9 draw, when Simon Danielli and Hugo Southwell failed to clear in their own 22, the latter's kick being charged down by Damian Traille for the winning score. But Petrie insisted there was a lot for which Scotland could be proud, and much to build on for Saturday at Murrayfield. "We are not the low-level side a lot of people thought we were. We have a lot of rugby in us and there is a lot of passion, too. We don't want people to say we played well and were unlucky to lose. That is the age-old Scottish thing. You have your lows after the match but we have to pick ourselves up quickly.
"A lot of the criticism spurs us on. The players are the guys a lot of people in Scottish rugby look up to. If we can lift the performances of the national team, we will lift the spirits of everyone in rugby. But we are under no illusions, Ireland will be extremely tough." It is only 12 months since Scotland were cut to pieces by the invention and pace of the Irish backs in Dublin. Petrie is aware of the threat this coming weekend, calling the Ireland threequarters, "One of the best back-lines in Europe, if not the world. But we have to go at them as hard as we can and play the game tight."
But the Scots would do well to heed the words of France's defensive coach Dave Ellis. "They have got to be able to play more, if they are going to test Ireland. Their forwards did well, particularly their back row, but we expected more from their threequarters. They have to attack more in the backs."Reuse content