Report: Scotland 16-20 France

Report: Scotland 16-20 France

France bounced back from an opening day defeat, and half-time deficit, to take victory at Scottish Gas Murrayfield in the Guinness Men’s Six Nations.

France brought their usual colour and voice for the anthems, minutes after Grand Slam heroes of 1984, Roy Laidlaw and John Rutherford, had presented the match ball.

The game sprung into life in the eighth minute, and how. An offside advantage allowed Finn Russell to release his back division, with Sione Tuipulotu and Duhan van der Merwe allowing Harry Paterson, on debut after Kyle Steyn was ruled out late on, to gain his first few international metres. A clever offload found Huw Jones, who in the blink of an eye found Ben White, whose juggling skills came to the fore before the skiddy Scottish Gas Murrayfield surface carried the scrum-half to aquaplane over for a fourth Scotland try, converted by Russell [7-0, 9 mins].

France replied with haste, when Grant Gilchrist was called for offside, and Thomas Ramos obliged from in front of the sticks [7-3, 12 mins].

A day after Scottish Rugby celebrated some of its retrospective internationalists in a capping ceremony, it was the latest member of the club, number 1219, who was impressing.

Harry Paterson, bristling with intent, had a dart from deep to the delight of the appreciative home support, before France almost punched through Gael Fickou’s break. Brought down by van der Merwe, the winger then recovered to snatch possession and land a belter of a grubber touchline 50 metres away.

France were called for offside a quarter of the match gone, but Scotland opted to go for the full house of points through a rumbling line-out maul. Seven phases later, amid another French transgression, the same penalty was awarded by referee Nic Berry, which Russell clipped over [10-3, 22 mins].

A third French offside presented Russell with another simple three points to extend Scotland’s lead [13-3, 29 mins].

And again, France hit back immediately. With an advantage in the bank and Scotland’s defence stretched beyond limits, Fickou was given the freedom of Murrayfield to trundle over, Thomas Ramos’ excellent touchline conversion bringing the difference back to three [13-10, 32 mins].

After yet another penalty for a France offside – a common theme – they lost Uini Atonio to a yellow card after the tighthead performed a no-arms tackle with Scotland inches from the line. In fairness to the gigantic prop, the underfoot conditions looked to have helped engineer a slip.

Nevertheless, Scotland opted for the scrum as their penalty reward of choice and instantly regretted it when the visitors when the Scottish front row went straight to ground.

Half-time: Scotland 13-10 France

If Scotland held the upper hand in the possession and territory stakes as the second half got settled in, France’s cheer came from being restored to a full playing complement without losing as much as another point.

If that checked momentum, then Paterson restored the atmosphere with a neat passage of individual skill, launching a counter-attack with a grand clearance only for Jalibert to knock on in his own 22.

Still Scotland couldn’t quite muster that next breakthrough, as White went within whisker of a brace when chasing his own cushioned kick.

France were rattled, making a number of unforced errors to feed the Scottish Gas Murrayfield faithful. When Damian Penaud knocked on halfway inside his own half, Scotland won a penalty from the resulting scrum and the first points were scored in some 25 minutes of play with Russell’s third penalty goal [16-10, 57 mins].

After some kick tennis, to the increasing ire of the 67,000 souls inside Murrayfield, France played to type and produced some magic out of nothing. A quick recycle off the back of a scrum saw Louis Bialle-Biarrey released. He chipped, chased and beat a retreating defence to the ball, with Ramos’ conversion putting Les Bleus (or Blancs, more accurately) ahead for the first time [16-17, 70 mins].

A side entry allowed Ramos to land a second penalty [16-20, 75 mins], before Kyle Rowe almost brought the house down with a slaloming, crowd-galvanising run which ate up half the length of the pitch but ended in an unfortunate knock-on.

There was one final chance for the hosts after Russell superbly stole a march on a loose ball, and Scotland rumbled and rolled in search of a match-winning score. They thought they had it when Sam Skinner went over, but an initial decision from Berry to not award the try led to inconclusive evidence to overturn his decision, much to the consternation of the crowd.

It mattered not to France, who retain the Auld Alliance Trophy.

Full-time: Scotland 16-20 France

Scotland: Harry Paterson (Edinburgh Rugby), Kyle Rowe, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu (all Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Finn Russell (Bath Rugby, co-captain), Ben White (Toulon); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge (co-captain) Jack Dempsey (all Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: Ewan Ashman (Edinburgh Rugby) (for Turner (Head Injury Assessment), 16 mins, then 68 mins) Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs) (for Schoeman, 72 mins), (Elliot Millar-Mills (Northampton Saints), Sam Skinner (Edinburgh Rugby) (for Gilchrist, 74 mins), Andy Christie (Saracens) (for M Fagerson, 40 mins), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), Ben Healy (Edinburgh Rugby) Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby) (for Jones, 77 mins).

France: Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Gaël Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Louis Bialle-Bierrey, Maatieu Jalibert, Maxime Lucu; Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Uini Atonio, Cameron Woki, Paul Gabrillagues, François Cros, Charles Ollivon, Grégory Alldritt (captain).

Replacements: Julien Marchand (for Mauvaka, 49 mins), Sébastian Taofifénoua (for Baille, 58 mins), Dorian Aldegheri (for Bialle-Biarry, 37 mins, front row yellow card); for Atonio, 58 mins), Posolo Tuilagi (for Paul Gabrillagues, 49 mins), Alexandre Roumat (for Woki, 49 mins), Paul Boudehent (for Alldritt, 50 mins), Nolann Le Garrec (for Lucu, 50 mins), Yoram Moefana (for Danty, 63 mins).


Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

Assistant referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia) and Jordan Way (Australia)

TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

Crowd: 67,144

Guinness Player of the Match: Grégory Alldritt

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