Scotland 25-21 France
An extraordinary second-half performance from Scotland, full of tempo and bravery, saw them overcome 30 minutes’ short-handed, after Zander Fagerson’s sending off, to pull back a 3-21 half-time deficit and post a superb victory against the world’s third ranked team, France.
At half-time, there was little hint of the pyrotechnics that were to follow. Tries from Darcy Graham, Pierre Schoeman and Dave Cherry and ten points from the boot of Finn Russell did the business and left France – who had dominated the first-half – shell-shocked.
The World Cup warm-up continues with Part 2 against Les Bleus in St Etienne next week, but Scotland and their fans go there in good heart.
The stadium paid tribute to former Scotland scrum-half Greig Oliver who died tragically in an accident in South Africa last month with a minute’s applause during the preamble to the action.
Scotland kicked off towards Roseburn Park through Blair Kinghorn. From the first scrum, Scotland put-in, the home team were awarded a free-kick. The scrum was re-set on two occasions and when Scotland had the nudge, France were penalised for popping. From just outside the 22, Finn Russell nonchalantly stroked Scotland into the lead, a grand start to his first captaincy at any level. (3-0, 4 mins).
Kinghorn guddled a bouncing ball only to seek to blaze away on the counter-attack, but Scotland were done for not releasing. France could make no headway, however on that occasion.
They did so, spectacularly in the 12th minute. From Ben White’s box kick, new cap Louis Bielle Biarrey exchanged passes with fellow debutant Emilien Gailleton, Jalibert was the crucial link and Baptise Couilloud sailed in for a lovely try. Jalibert converted (3-7, 12 mins).
Jallibert then proved France’s defensive mainstay at the other end pulling off a timely interception as Jack Dempsey sought to release the rampaging Duhan van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe then had to look lively to deny Yoram Moefana on an arcing run towards the south-west corner as the game entered the second quarter.
France garnered their second try. Off a penalty to touch, Cameron Woki caught. The maul did not have momentum but from Brice Dulin’s thrust in midfield, the visitors recycled and Jallibert sent Bielle-Biarrey slaloming through at pace for a debut try. Jalibert converted (3-14, 25 mins).
A high tackle by Sekou Macalou on van der Merwe saw Scotland awarded a penalty. Grant Gilchrist won the subsequent lineout and Kinghorn was all but clear on the left. Though France appeared to be dallying with the offside line, it was Scotland who were pinged at the breakdown.
A counter-attack from turnover ball deep inside Scotland’s 22, ended with Hamish Watson sending van der Merwe clear for a “try” . . . but play was recalled 70 metres, as a pass from Kinghorn in the build-up was ruled forward by the referee.
Nearing half-time, Scotland failed to generate any momentum from two lineouts on the East Stand side as scrum penalties went either way.
Sadly, the penalties kept flowing – three in succession against Scotland – and Jalibert kept prodding France closer to the Scotland line.
With the clock in the red, Woki won the lineout, Pierre Bourgarit had the first tilt, Bastien Callureau thumped on and Woki crawled over the line for the third French try. Jalibert converted. (3-21, 40+2 mins).
Half-time: Scotland 3 – 21 France
Scotland had lost White to an injury to his left ankle in the first half, a concern with the Rugby World Cup looming.
But the second half began more encouragingly for them.
Huw Jones had threatened inside the French 22. Watson and Matt Fagerson carried and Russell’s diagonal was seized upon with laser-like precision by Darcy Graham, who beat Ethan Dumortier to the touch by his finger-tips.
The decision went to TMO Ben Whitehouse and try was awarded. Graham’s 19th try for Scotland was converted majestically by Russell from the touchline (10-21, 43 mins).
Graham’s next contribution was equally sprightly – a tackle on the intruding Dulin. France were penalised for going off their feet and Jack Dempsey was soon charging full pelt from the lineout. Richie Gray was among the waiting cavalry, but Scotland were penalised.
Zander Fagerson – red carded against Wales back in 2021 – was yellow carded in the 50th minute for a contact on Bourgarit at a ruck (and it was subject to further review in the bunker, which did not go well for the tight-head, being upgraded to red).
Meanwhile, Scotland dented the French lead with a try that spoke volumes for their resolve. Ewan Ashman was twice involved in pulverising drive, Gray was there too and with George Horne sparking his pack, Pierre Schoeman ploughed on from five metres to touch down for his third try for Scotland. Russell converted (17-21, 53 mins).
There was then a flurry of substitutions from both sides and it appeared that, somehow, against the odds, Scotland had regained the lead as Kinghorn stepped and put on the after-burners to storm in.
However, TMO review confirmed there was a knock-on from Graham in the build-up and we came back for a Scotland penalty.
Another Scotland penalty but Russell declined the kick at goal. Still the vital break eluded Scotland, but yet another penalty and this time the French rearguard was well and truly pierced.
From Gray at the lineout, Scotland’s seven-man pack surged on the driving maul and Dave Cherry got the try that had the stadium rocking. It was Cherry’s fourth for Scotland – and first since his score had triggered a winning comeback at the Stade de France in 2021. Russell just missed the conversion, but Scotland had regained the lead (22-21, 64 mins).
As the clock counted down into the final ten minutes, Scotland were playing smart rugby, with the crowd energised, loving a courageous and audacious high ball take from Kinghorn.
Russell edged Scotland further ahead with an offside penalty (25-21, 73 mins) .
Inevitably, France conjured a big finish and Kinghorn again did superbly to police a probing kick into in-goal from Baptiste Serin.
Inside, the final minute and an offside offence by Gray, saw France opt for a scrum 12 metres out.
Scotland were penalised at the scrum and Dulin instead opted for the touchline. France won the lineout through Woki and they sought to go through the phases. They had not counted on Rory Darge however. The substitute openside, courageous to the end, won a priceless turnover penalty and Scottish Gas Murrayfield erupted.
Full-time: Scotland 25 – 21 France
Scotland: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham (both Edinburgh Rugby), Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu (both Glasgow Warriors), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Finn Russell (Bath Rugby) CAPTAIN, Ben White (Toulon); Pierre Schoeman, Ewan Ashman (both Edinburgh Rugby), Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray (both Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors).
Subs: Dave Cherry (Edinburgh Rugby) for Ashman (57 mins), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) for Schoeman (57 mins), W P Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) for Dempsey (57 mins), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors) for Gilchrist (71 mins), Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors) for Watson (57 mins), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) for White (30 mins), Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby) for Tuipulotu (57 mins), Ollie Smith (Glasgow Warriors).
France: Brice Dulin CAPTAIN, Louis Bielle Biarrey, Emilien Gailleton, Yoram Moefana, Ethan Dumortier ; Matthieu Jalibert, Baptiste Couilloud ; Jean-Baptiste Gros, Pierre Bourgarit, Demba Bamba, Cameron Woki, Bastien Chalureau, Paul Boudenhent, Sekou Macalou, Yoan Tanga.
Subs: Peato Mauvaka for Bourgarit (55 mins), Reda Wardi for Gros (54 mins), Sipili Falatea for Bamba (44 mins), Paul Willemse for Chalureau (55 mins), Dylan Cretin for Macalou (55 mins), Baptiste Serin for Couilloud (68 mins), Antoine Hastoy, for Jallibert (61 mins). Arthur Vincent for Dumortier (58 mins)
Referee: Ben O’Keefe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland) and Federico Vedovelli (Italy).
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).
Famous Grouse Player of the Match: Blair Kinghorn (Scotland).