Skipper Stuart Hogg held his hands up to a “schoolboy error” after blowing a late chance that could have seen Scotland claim a dramatic draw against France.
With his side seven points down and the clock already in the red, all the full-back had to do was find touch with a penalty to give Gregor Townsend’s men a line-out within striking distance of Les Bleus’ line.
But Hogg overhit his kick and Fabien Galthie’s team were able to clinch a 22-15 victory which has put them firmly on course for the Autumn Nations Cup final in a fortnight, as long as they do not suffer a surprise slip against Italy next week.
Scotland were looking looking to win a sixth straight Test match and equal a feat achieved only twice in the Dark Blues’ modern rugby history, the last by David Sole’s 1990 Grand Slam winners.
But beating France for the second time this year proved to be a game too far as Scotland switched off two minutes after the break and watched as the visitors streaked away, with Virimi Vakatawa scoring the only try of the game.
The first half was a battle of the kickers, with Duncan Weir matching Thomas Ramos penalty for penalty to ensure Scotland went in level at 12-12.
But the stand-off could only add another three points after the break to leave the Scots – whose clash with Covid-hit Fiji next week has been cancelled – staring at the third-place play-off, most likely against Ireland in Dublin.
On his late blunder, Hogg said: “Yeah, I made a schoolboy error it’s as simple that but look, I thought we played well for 78 minutes of that game.
“A couple of mistakes didn’t quite go our way and we’re old enough and ugly enough now to realise we’ve made a mistake. I don’t need to be told a million times about it.
“I thought for 78 minutes of that game we were in control. I thought we nullified everything that France were coming here to do.
“But unfortunately we’ve made a couple of mistakes and you can’t do that in international rugby. It’s as simple as that.
“We shut France down. They wanted to bring a running game but all they did was kick to us.
“We can take a huge amount of confidence away from the way we defended but there are some disappointed boys there and rightly so.
“The positive thing is we realise where we’ve made mistakes. We can go back to the drawing board and try to make amends.
“But the frustrating thing is we know we’re a lot better than that.
“It’s fine people making mistakes but it’s the fact that sometimes we compound our errors and that’s what cost us.
“We went from being in a position to score a try to virtually 90 seconds later conceding three. In that time we gave away three penalties which is compounding errors and not what we’re about.
“We’ve not turned into a bad team overnight. We know where we’re going wrong and we’re excited about our next challenge.”
Scotland’s winning run has come to an end, but head coach Townsend is still proud of the way his side have handled everything the year has thrown at them so far.
He said: “If you look over 2020 we have shown commitment, togetherness and shown we are tough to break down and beat.
“That was another game that underlined that.
“But we had penalties against us and errors of execution that we know we have to eradicate if we are a team that wins these games and reaches its potential.”