|2018 Six Nations|
|Scotland (14) 32|
|Tries: Maitland, Jones Cons: Laidlaw 2 Pens: Laidlaw 6|
|France (20) 26|
|Tries: Thomas 2 Cons: Machenaud 2 Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2|
Scotland put defeat by Wales behind them to overcome France at Murrayfield and revive their Six Nations campaign.
The first of two Teddy Thomas tries put France into an early 10-0 lead before Sean Maitland crossed for Scotland.
Thomas gathered a lucky bounce to score again but the hosts replied via Huw Jones’ try, only for Maxime Machenaud’s second penalty to put France 20-14 up.
Greig Laidlaw kicked six penalties, to two from Baptiste Serin, to steer the Scots home in a tense second half.
Scotland will next face reigning champions England at Murrayfield on Saturday, 24 February (16:45 KO), while France host Italy on Friday, 23 February (20:00 KO).
The fashion in which Scotland were swatted away by Wales on the opening day caused a hasty reassessment in some quarters of what Gregor Townsend’s men could realistically achieve in this championship, having been tipped by some as potential dark horses for the title.
France were nursing wounds of their own, having been denied victory against Ireland in Paris by a dramatic Johnny Sexton drop-goal in the last play of the game.
Thomas’ stunning try looked to have given France victory in that match before Sexton’s late heroics, and with less than three minutes on the clock in Edinburgh, the winger ripped the Scotland defence to shreds.
Collecting a pass five metres inside the Scottish half wide on the right, Thomas brushed off a weak Finn Russell tackle, skipped around Peter Horne and sprinted away from Stuart Hogg to coast over.
Machenaud’s conversion and subsequent penalty saw the nervous Murrayfield crowd looking at a scoreboard showing their team 10-0 down after 10 minutes. The Scotland response was, however, not long in coming.
A clever kick from Hogg forced an attacking line-out deep in French territory and after controlled phase play – something they struggled badly with last weekend – the Scots picked their moment to go wide, Russell timing the scoring pass to Maitland to perfection.
Scotland’s attacking style drew many plaudits in the autumn, and while Wales showd last weekend that they do not have a monopoly on ambitious rugby, France seemed intent on ramming it down their throats.
After pulling the hosts from side to side, the ball was shipped to Thomas. The Racing 92 flier chipped ahead and as a cruel bounce took the ball away from the covering Laidlaw, Thomas gathered to re-establish the 10-point lead.
The next score was going to be crucial to Scottish confidence – on the field and in the stands – and the stadium erupted when Jones cut a gorgeous short line to take Laidlaw’s pass, slice through the France defence and go in under the posts.
Another Machenaud penalty gave the French a 20-14 half-time lead, but it was the Scots that began the second period on the front foot. Impressive recalled lock Grant Gilchrist blasted through a couple of tackles to get the French retreating and when they infringed on the floor, Laidlaw kicked Scotland back within three.
Serin, on for Machenaud at scrum-half, and Laidlaw traded penalties as the initiative swung one way and then another, with referee John Lacey’s whistle checking the momentum of both sides.
Serin struck again from the tee, but Laidlaw hit back once more, and going into the final quarter it seemed the team who could conjure a try would go on and win the game.
It was not to be though, with Townsend’s side instead being content instead to accept the penalty points that the greater authority in their play presented.
Laidlaw popped over his fourth penalty to level things up at 26-26 before Townsend sprung a surprise by removing captain John Barclay and Russell – guilty of a couple of basic errors – to make way for David Denton and Ali Price, with Laidlaw moving to fly-half.
The home side were in the ascendency, their replacements bringing the intended energy to their play, and with 10 minutes remaining Laidlaw’s fifth penalty gave them the lead for the first time.
Another, with four minutes left, gave the former captain a 22-point haul from a flawless eight shots at goal, and Murrayfield was soon erupting in relief and celebration.
The coach’s view – ‘Character and togetherness’
Scotland boss Gregor Townsend: “I’m happier than last week, that’s for sure! The effort it takes to win a Test match is huge, and when you have to do it being behind for most of the game, that shows the character of the squad and the togetherness. We were a bit more direct, and we got our rewards.
“It was mentioned during the week [moving Laidlaw to fly-half], and we ran a couple of plays this morning. It was seeing how Greig was, and it looked like he could last the 80, but Ali Price brings so much from the bench [at scrum-half].
“He really upped the pace and Greig’s kicking was pretty good, so bringing Ali onto the ball was pretty positive to the team.”
Pundits’ analysis – ‘You do not get points for style’
Injured Wales flanker Sam Warburton on BBC One: “With Wales we have always said, coming to Murrayfield, we cannot give away penalties in our half if Greig Laidlaw is playing – more often than not he is going to convert them.
“Scotland were quite direct, they made France tackle and that makes teams tired. You crash at the 60-minute mark and I think the first half took its toll on the French. Penalties win matches, Greig kicked six in a row, and every time they went forward, France gave one away.”
Former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol on BBC One: “Six Nations rugby is about winning. You do not get points for style, for scoring great tries and playing with flair. It is about winning rugby games and Scotland had to do that today.”
Former France flanker Olivier Magne on BBC One: “I am very disappointed. I was very excited by the first half and thought France could maintain the speed and tempo like that during the second half. But our Top 14 doesn’t prepare us to play like that for 80 minutes – we can play 40 minutes at a good level but the second half was too difficult for us.”
Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Jones, Horne, Maitland; Russell, Laidlaw; Reid, McInally, Berghan, Gilchrist, Gray, Barclay (capt), Watson, Wilson.
Replacements: Lawson, Bhatti (for Reid, 58), Welsh, Toolis (for Gilchrist, 58), Denton (for Barclay, 65), Price (for Russell, 65), Harris, Kinghorn.
France: Palis; Thomas, Lamerat, Doumayrou, Vakatawa; Beauxis, Machenaud; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Slimani, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Camara, Tauleigne
Replacements: Pelissie (for Guirado, 75), Ben Arous (for Poirot, 58), Gomes Sa (for Slimani, 58), Gabrillagues, Picamoles (for Tauleigne, 58), Serin (for Machenaud, 41), Belleau (for Beauxis, 71), Fall (for Vakatawa, 71).
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Touch judges: Nigel Owens (Wales) & Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
|6 (0)||Scrums won (lost)||4 (0)|
|8 (1)||Line-outs won (lost)||7 (1)|
|105 (4)||Rucks/mauls won (lost)||76 (6)|
|26||Kicks from hand||26|
|105 (22)||Tackles made (missed)||127 (19)|