Match Report: France 30-27 Scotland
A game that had everything, including one of Scotland’s heartiest performances yet, ends in disappointment for the visitors despite a last gasp try from Player of the Match, Kyle Steyn.
Scotland kicked off at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard through Blair Kinghorn, sending the match ball cleanly into France’s 22. Almost immediately, Dupont returned with a clearance kick to the half-way line, gifting Scotland a lineout.
George Turner and the rest of the forward pack delivered a perfect set piece with vice-captain Grant Gilchrist delivering the ball in the air. Beginning their first phase of attack, Scotland worked hard to keep the ball alive using the full width of the pitch from left to right.
In his quintessential style, Finn Russell shot a cross field kick down the park which was expertly gathered by Duhan van der Merwe before France were penalised by referee Nic Berry for being offside. Russell then sent the ball to the left corner for another lineout, this time within striking distance of the French try line.
With Scotland’s lineout firing on all cylinders, the forward pack followed up with brute force mauling their way to gain ground before safely getting the ball to the back line. The ball effortlessly found Huw Jones and Kinghorn. With rapid fire, he delivered the ball to winger Kyle Steyn, who went gliding into space and across the line. Finn Russell’s tight angle conversion sailed through the sticks (0-7, 5 mins).
Despite a well gathered restart, Scotland struggled with the exit with Pierre Schoeman penalised for holding on after a strong carry, a gift for France as play concluded within Scotland’s half. Thomas Ramos lined up to go for goal to get the hosts onto the board. It sailed through and the gap was narrowed. (3-7, 7 mins).
France’s attacking restart saw them try to run the ball up to Scotland, but a fantastic tackle by Sione Tuipulotu allowed skipper Jamie Ritchie to steal the ball at the ruck. With France caught kicking the ball in the ruck, Scotland were awarded the penalty allowing Russell to go for goal from inside the French 10-meter line, which ultimately concluded in Scotland’s lead being extended (3-10, 10 mins).
From the next restart, France piled on the pressure and a loose ball forced a penalty, taken by Dupont as he found touch on the full, for a line out. France made good ground from here with their maul, but just as they advanced on the half-way line, Turner showed off his defensive threat with a fantastic turnover in the ruck. With Russell identifying some space in the midfield, he sent the ball back into French territory. The force sent the ball long, gifting France a goal line drop out.
A succession of Scottish penalties followed. Ritchie Gray was firstly penalised for being in at the side as he rucked over Rory Darge who had carried well. France put foot to boot for a chance to strike inside Scotland’s half, and it was here that the Scotland skipper was deemed to be offside in the maul.
The hosts once again gained ground with a kick to the corner for another lineout, this time within much closer range of the try line. Despite Scotland’s defensive efforts, a further succession of errors including an early engage at the maul from vice-captain Grant Gilchrist allowed France to set up once more.
This time Scotland were successful, forcing a knock on for the first scrum of the match and Scotland’s opportunity to climb out of their half. It wasn’t to be, however.
With just 20 minutes gone, it felt like déjà vu with the forwards setting up for another line out. As France began to maul, rapid defensive efforts from Scotland saw them strip the ball from France’s clutches some three meters from the try line. But the elation was met with disappointment when Darge was penalised for being off his feet at the ruck. Despite their various attempts for a try, France then chose to take three in front of the sticks. Ramos added to his tally taking the score within four (6-10, 21 mins).
A fairly frantic 10 minutes soon followed with errors from both sides. Scotland’s pass was intercepted whilst the visitors had advantage, and it was once again time for a Scotland scrum.
It took some three scrums to see the next of the action begin. Strong work from Scotland, they began to find their footing inside French territory but the hosts won the turn over and took a quick tap and go. France thought they were away, but Price brought Dupont into touch. Unfortunately the scrum-half paid the price for his actions, deemed intentionally offside and sent to the sin-bin as a result.
France took the opportunity to send the ball deep into Scotland’s half for another line out. With just 10 minutes left on the clock for the first half, France were on the charge, working through multiple phases.
Scotland suffered another penalty with Gilchrist not rolling, and France chose to scrum down some 10-meters from Scotland’s try line.
With Scotland in a one-man deficit, France had the attacking advantage. Romain Ntamack forced his way through Scotland’s defence on the left to cross the whitewash and give France the lead. Ramos added the extras (13-10, 32 mins).
The closing 10 minutes of the first half saw a real back and forth between the two sides, with mistakes from both. Before the half-time whistle blew, Price was returned to the action – alleviating Russell of his ball-feeding duties at the scrum.
Two lineout attempts within Scotland’s half provided fruitless for France with Richie Gray stealing the ball in the second. As Scotland looked to exit and close the game, Russell’s kick for touch stretched a little too far, but France decided it was time for a break and closed the first-half three points in front.
Half-time: France 13-10 Scotland
If you thought Scotland had a quick start in the first half, well France came off the mark at lightning speed executing a try within two minutes of returning to the field through Damien Penaud, instigated from a break up the wing from Dupont. Ramos added the extras (20-10, 41 mins).
Within minutes of the restart, despite Scotland’s best efforts their defence was well manipulated, with France offloading the ball in rapid fashion before Charles Ollivon went soaring beneath the posts for five. Ramos added the extras from close range (27-10, 45 mins).
It was a back and forth five minutes, but eventually France regained possession and began to look for a try scoring opportunity. Looking for space, Dupont grubbered the ball into Scotland’s 22 and the men in white had the foot on the gas. But, so did Price and van der Merwe, as they were on a mission to stop France getting there first. The Scots got there first, but in the chaos, Ntamack gathered and dotted down. After a review from the TMO however, the try was not given and Scotland let out a sigh of relief (50 mins).
Scotland were awarded a scrum, which saw France falling forward gifting the visitors a free kick which was gathered and returned quickly by Ramos, but it was kicked dead and Scotland were taken into France’s 22 for their real chance to attack in the second half.
Despite some fantastic creativity to work around France’s defence, Price nudged the ball through a gap, where it rolled into touch some meters from France’s line.
Scotland took the opportunity to make some changes, George Horne, Stuart McInally, Rory Sutherland, Javan Sebastian and Sam Skinner enter the field to replace Ali Price, George Turner, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel and Grant Gilchrist.
A scrappy 10 minutes of play followed with both side kicking downfield, but after some time, Scotland had possession and the game began to open up. Scotland’s Huw Jones saw the opportunity in front of him and made a spectacular break, cutting a fantastic inside line before being stuck down by the French defence just two meters before the line, but quick ball to the hands of van der Mewre sees the ball dotted down and it felt like change was coming for Scotland (27-15, 63 mins).
The try scorer was shortly replaced by Ollie Smith through injury. Scott Cummings was also brought on to replace Richie Gray (64 mins).
Scotland were determined to prove they were back in this game, and just minutes later produced another fantastic try. From the kick off, France quickly found themselves in trouble with Rory Sutherland tackled without the ball. Scotland took the scrum and held their own, getting the ball from Russell to Kinghorn, who founds Steyn cutting into the midfield before offloading to McInally. The hooker was just short of the try line, but a phase later the ball was safely in the hands of Darge and importantly, across the whitewash. Russell added the extras and suddenly this was a five point match (27-22, 68 mins).
France were eager to respond and just as it looked like their winger was away down the flank, try saving Smith brings him down and forced the ball to be spilled in the process, giving Scotland a scrum just five meters from their own try line.
Scotland made a successful exit but France returned the ball again. Russell saw an opportunity and ran into space before offloading to Kinghorn, who found George Horne. The scrum-half skillfully chipped the ball through, with Steyn in pursuit. The winger gathered in smooth fashion to bag himself a brace and crucially bring the score to draw with just seven minutes left of the clock (27-27, 73 mins).
Josh Bayliss was next to enter play, replacing Jack Dempsey who had a fantastic showing in the back row (74 mins).
Scotland’s next attacking opportunity was found at a line out, but it didn’t quite function as planned and France stole the ball, but a fantastic interception by Scotland’s magician Russell saw France knock the ball on. Scotland now had a scrum inside their half with less than three mins on the clock, but Sutherland was penalised for going to ground. Now France were within striking distance for an easy penalty kick to the posts. Ramos lined up for goal and France retook the lead with less than 90 seconds left of the game (30-27, 78 mins).
Scotland were lit up with a stirring fire ignited in them to make every second left on the clock count, and they looked dangerous. With Sutherland struck unlawfully, Scotland had the penalty and one final chance to close the game with a win.
Russell sent the ball in France’s 22 for a line out. But the lineout ended in bitter disappointment with referee Berry deeming the ball to have been knocked on in the air. Scotland’s chance at a win in France was brought to a close.
Full-time: France 30-27 Scotland
Scotland: Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby); Kyle Steyn; Huw Jones; Sione Tuipulotu (all Glasgow Warriors); Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Finn Russell (Bath Rugby); Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby); George Turner (Glasgow Warriors); WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby); Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors); Grant Gilchrist; Jamie Ritchie CAPTAIN (both Edinburgh Rugby); Rory Darge; Jack Dempsey (both Glasgow Warriors)
Subs: Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby); Rory Sutherland (unattached); Javan Sebastian (Edinburgh Rugby); Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors); Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby); Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby); George Horne (Glasgow Warriors); Ollie Smith (Glasgow Warriors)
France: Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud; Gael Fickou; Jonathan Danty; Gabin Villiere; Romain Ntamack; Antoine Dupont CAPATIN; Gregory Alldritt; Charles Ollivon; Paul Boudehent; Thibaud Flament; Cameron Woki; Dorian Aldegheri; Julien Marchand; Cyril Baille
Subs: Pierre Bourgarit; Jean-Baptiste Gros; Uini Atonio; Florian Verhaeghe; Bastien Chalureau; Sekou Macalou; Maxime Lucu; Louis Bielle-Biarrey
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England) Adam Leal (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)
Player of the Match: Kyle Steyn (Scotland)