A game billed as being played “outside the international window” seems to smell of danger, doesn’t it? As if there was no referee available, as if teams might need to move to an abandoned warehouse, as if the Rollerball rulebook would apply which means there was no no rule at all.
But there would still have been a rush for the IRB’s front door to get it properly ratified, with the prospect of France claiming a championship or Scotland claiming a better Six Nations finish.
Or… who is crossing the hill from the valleys below? Waving giant comedy leeks as if, rather than Rollerball, it was the Games Without Borders just as anarchic?
What is French for Jeux Sans Frontiers? Never mind, what is the Welsh for “You owe us, boyos”? In 1999 Scott Gibbs of Wales crashed over England’s Tryline as a father at a children’s party desperate for a visit to the bouncy castle before it was deflated – his glorious touchdown helping to give Scotland their final title. The Scots doing something similar would mean a 28th title for the Welsh.
The match had one referee – Wayne Barnes – who looked nice to Scotland with the award of the first try. It had been designed by two runaway bulldozer loads from George Turner, which made up for Chris Harris’ dismissal twice.
This competition had a needle. Postponed due to French Covid violations – ‘Wafflegate’ – with the new date which ultimately cost Scotland the chance to line up Sean Maitland. Anyone who was going to impersonate Gibbs wouldn’t be our best man under a high ball. No wonder Captain Stuart Hoff said he was “injured”.
Not just that, but “hacked” by the French anticipation of victory. Hoggy could well have stepped into the game humming the old 10CC song that says, “A night in Paris / will wipe the smile off your pretty face.” ”
And that night in Paris started so well for the Scots who dominated with fierce tackles that rocked France and by that time you certainly wondered where their 21 point victory came from.
But in a first half of two halves, France then put the tide. A series of penalties conceded by Scotland meant a try was inevitable, although it was greatly helped by the fluffy tackle from Duhan van der Merwe. Hogg may have been hacked by this, but after the match threatened to sink into a Rollerball punch, he would have been more annoyed by the ten minutes he had to spend in the trash. All of Wales must have moaned by this time.
With 14 men, Scotland duly conceded another try, but when the captain returned they woke up again, mad try-hooker Dave Cherry dived once more. France responded but Scotland came back on them – it was a real slug-fest. Then Finn Russell went too far, an elbow on Brise Dulin’s neck and he received a red card.
Advantage France? Not quite, because then they lost a man. In Cardiff, Swansea and Pontypool, they could open the caps to celebrate their title. The only question left in this strangest Six Nations, with France just three points ahead, was whether Scotland could end the championship with magnificent away wins? But yes!