Scotland scrum-half Ali Price admitted to being as bewildered as anyone by Finn Russell’s extraordinary conversion miss which has been a major talking point in the aftermath of Sunday’s 22-16 loss to France in Paris.
The stand-off appeared to be under pressure from the coaching staff to take the conversion of Tim Swinson’s 45th-minute try as quickly as possible to prevent any possibility of the touchdown under the posts going to a video review and investigation of whether or not Tommy Seymour obstructed French full-back Scott Spedding before he provided the scoring pass.
Assistant coach Nathan Hines, who had brought on the kicking tee, appeared to give Russell the hurry up and, off a minimal run-up, the kicker, who had assumed the duties with skipper Greig Laidlaw off injured, snatched at the ball as it toppled off its platform and was sent embarrassingly under the bar.
“I was back waiting for the kick-off. I asked him if he got it and he muttered something to me. I’m not sure what happened,” said Price of an incident head coach Vern Cotter sought to play down in his post-match press conference, with the Kiwi claiming that because the margin of defeat ended up at more than two points it wasn’t a major issue.
However, there is an argument that the incident did hurt Scotland’s cause as they strived for a first win in the French capital since 1999.
A three-point lead ended up being swiftly wiped out with a Camille Lopez penalty, whereas a five-point advantage could have seen the French behind for longer and who knows what effect that may have had on their psyche.
It also seemed the case that Russell’s game deteriorated afterwards, either through a sense of agitation or trying too hard to compensate for the fiasco.
As for Price, the scrum-half insists he is ready to start against Wales if Laidlaw fails to recover from his ankle injury in time.
The 23-year-old was thrust into the Stade de France cauldron after just 25 minutes and said he would have no qualms about being thrown the No.9 jersey for a first international start at BT Murrayfield a week on Saturday.
“I’ve always been ready for every game. Whenever I’ve come on I’ve been ready when needed,” said Price who was only winning his second cap in Paris following a late cameo against Georgia in the autumn.
“I’d relish the opportunity to start at Murrayfield. I’d be ready if my name was called and I would put in the same prep I’ve been putting in for all these games. I’d talk with the 10, talk with the coaches. I’d be in a good place and ready to play.”
Price feels he grew into the game on Sunday after a less than perfect start.
“To be honest, I showed a bit of inexperience when I first came on because I gave away a stupid penalty when I didn’t need to,” he said. “But after that I thought I got myself into the game. I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. It was probably the biggest game of my life. It’s just a disappointment that we didn’t come away with the win.”
That bit of “inexperience” was his intemperate shove on Lopez as he looked to take one of his trademark quick-tap penalties. A bit of a melee ensued and a Scotland penalty was reversed in the hosts’ favour.
Asked if he was worried it might be more than a penalty when referee Jaco Peyper summoned him over, Price said: “Yes, I was. But then, I had not gone anywhere near his head. I pushed him, and I know I shouldn’t have.
“My game is to try and play quick. I felt he was stopping me from taking the quick tap, which I wanted to do if it was on. There was a rush of blood on my part. I hold my hand up.
“That’s just how I like to play. I feel that if we get a penalty and the ball is there I can take the tap and be gone before they have set. In the worst case we get another ten metres.
“We wanted to catch them off guard and keep them moving. That was part of our plan to keep them running around and not let them settle.”
At 5ft 8in, Price found himself dwarfed by some huge specimens, especially on the home side, in what unfolded as the brutal contest that had been widely predicted.
“There were some big men out there. It was really physical,” he said. “Both sides will be feeling the effects. We know we were in a bloody tough game.
“France are a good side and we gave them too much easy ball. We wanted to move them around but we didn’t feel we held on to the ball as well as we could have. That cost us.
“We came here to in and we knew that if we ramped ourselves up from the Ireland performance then we would win.
“We’re bitterly disappointed. I feel that in the second half we gave them too much easy ball and that gave them chances to get into the game and ultimately pull ahead with the penalties.”
The disappointment of yet another close-but-no cigar effort in Paris will naturally linger but Price insists the squad are looking ahead to the last three games of the campaign with anticipation.
“With our backline, if we hold on to the ball and go through phases then we can break teams down,” he said. “We’ve got the fitness to hold the ball and our backline are all exciting players. Going into Wales, if we can keep the ball away from the opposition then we’ll create chances to score tries and tire them out.”