Irrelevant it may ultimately have proved, but so too was it inexcusable. If Scotland were already incensed at the video referee's decision to award a try to Shane Williams at a critical juncture in Cardiff on Saturday, then that fury will only intensify when they hear the allegation that Carlo Damasco turned down the chance to see the evidence that best showed the Wales wing's foot out of touch.
The BBC provide the replays for the Television Match Official and an insider revealed that after the Italian had been shown the first few clips of the disputed score in the 67th minute he was offered an opportunity to see the incident from another angle which provided definitive proof of the try's illegality. "He said he didn't need to as he'd seen enough," said a source. "That was taken to mean that he'd 'seen enough' to disallow it. It is fair to say there was a general sense of disbelief when he awarded it."
In fairness to Signor Damasco, TMOs are encouraged to give as quick a verdict as possible and he was not aware of the content of the other replay, although as the initial clips raised enough question marks anyway, it does seem incredible that he declined one last look. BBC viewers were later shown the damning footage and were left in no doubt that William's trailing leg was at least three inches over the line before he grounded the ball and actually dragged up turf.
Some observers suggested that Williams deserved to score after a sensational line-break but that surely misses the point quite ridiculously. Jonathan Davies, the former Wales No 10 and now Independent on Sunday columnist, probably called it wisest when declaring "it was the best non-try I have ever seen". Whatever, the International Rugby Board is certain to come under added pressure to tighten up the procedure as even Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, admitted these mistakes are occurring all too often. "We've seen this happen before," he said. "Perhaps they should get two men in the box."
That recommendation was made tongue-in-cheek, but did serve to prove how farcical this area of officialdom is fast becoming. Scotland have every right to feel more aggrieved than any other nation as this is the second time in as many years whereby the supposedly all-knowing eye in the sky has ruled against them erroneously. Last year, Donal Courtney adjudged Jonny Wilkinson to have scored against them at Twickenham, when he was closer to the burger stands than the pitch, so Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, was entitled to moan long, loud and vehemently.
They were just the five points down at the time and two more penalties might not have been beyond them; even if scoring their own try seemed to be. "We weren't playing particularly well, not threatening enough, but we were fighting, hanging in there, doing what you need to do to try to sneak something away from home, when we had the bitterly disappointing blow for a second year running of the TMO getting it quite clearly wrong," said Hadden. "That gave us a mountain to climb."
Scotland were never going to climb it; indeed they were so unadventurous they might have found it too ambitious to circumvent a sleeping policemen and it was this negative gameplan that created the afternoon's other main talking point. Gatland made no secret of his disgust at the visitors' tactics – "only one team tried to play rugby out there", he barked – while Hadden was just as indignant in his reply. "It's not our job to entertain the crowd," he said.
Perhaps that is one reason why Scotland attract the smallest crowds of all the home nations and perhaps that is also why the knives are slowly being unsheathed. Gavin Hastings, for one, was apoplectic and demanded Hadden make changes after bafflingly showing faith in the men who succumbed so tamely in Paris. "Now Scotland have got to play Chris Paterson at outside-half," said the former captain. "Sorry Dan Parks: you've had your chance and you didn't take it. Scotland have nothing to lose. The original plan isn't working, so they may as well do something different."
The mood in the Borders is a direct contrast to that in the Valleys. Wales were again sloppy and shoddy for long periods but were still good value for their margin of victory. Obviously, this only increases the expectancy – imagine what they will do when they play well? Those two words – Grand Slam – are not far from any Welsh lips.
Gatland tried manfully to limit the frenzy by labelling Wales "two levels behind the best". Nevertheless, should they fall short he could very well be the victim of his own instant success. It is the decisiveness which marks this man. His removal of the half-backs and then the captain around the hour-mark was positively Mourinho-like, as will be the unprecedented step he is preparing to take of naming his side for the home game against Italy a full week early. That, he believes, will give the replacements he is planning on bringing in time to get in the correct mindset. It will also give the poor dolts he will drop the chance to reflect on their shortcomings.
One of these looks likely to be James Hook, who must be wondering what he did to warrant being benched. He had contributed 12 of his side's 17 points at that stage – his fine individual try following up Williams' jinking first-half touchdown – and his goal-kicking had been faultless. Stephen Jones did bring a certain amount of control to proceedings and once Williams had crossed for his controversial second and his namesake Martyn had finished off tightening his all-reaching grip in the loose, Scotland were beaten and beaten quite badly. Paterson's boot was the only bright point. Some consolation.
Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); J Roberts (Blues), T Shanklin (Blues), G Henson (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); J Hook (Ospreys), M Phillips (Ospreys); Duncan Jones (Ospreys), H Bennett (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys); I Gough (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys); J Thomas (Ospreys), M Williams (Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt). Replacements: G Jenkins (Blues) for Duncan Jones, 54; S Jones (Scarlets) for Hook, 57; D Peel (Scarlets) for Phillips, 57; M Rees (Scarlets) for Bennett, 58; G Delve (Gloucester) for R Jones, 62; S Parker (Ospreys) for Shanklin, 71; Deiniol Jones (Blues) for Gough, 73.
Scotland: H Southwell (Edinburgh); N Walker (Ospreys), N De Luca (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), C Paterson (Gloucester); D Parks (Glasgow ), M Blair (Edinburgh); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton); N Hines (Perpignan), J Hamilton (Leicester); J White (Sale), J Barclay (Glasgow), K Brown (Glasgow). Replacements: A Hogg (Edinburgh) for White, 32; S MacLeod (Scarlets) for Hines 62; F Thomson (Glasgow) for Ford, 73, C Cusiter (Perpignan) for Blair, 73; S Danielli (Ulster) for Walker, 74.
Referee: B Lawrence (NZ)Reuse content