France pip Scots at Murrayfield
Sat, 08 Mar 2014 18:47
The visitors were outscored by two tries to one
France kept their Six Nations hopes alive with a narrow 19-17 victory over Scotland in a scrappy game at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Scots were on the brink of winning their first Test in eight matches against France when referee Chris Pollock awarded a penalty in front of the posts as the ball came out from a ruck.
Replacement Jean-Marc Doussain made sure of the kick and there was barely any time left for Scotland to mount a comeback.
Victory - France's first away from home since winning at Murrayfield two years ago - left Philippe Saint-Andre's side in with a shout of a winner-takes-all clash with title rivals Ireland in Paris next week.
An entertaining first half ended with Scotland 14-9 in front after Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour scored tries converted by Greig Laidlaw, with recalled scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud kicking three penalties for the visitors.
France wing Yoann Huget's converted intercept try early in the second half saw the French go 16-14 in front and threatened to knock the wind out of Scotland's sails.
But with flyhalf Duncan Weir, whose last minute drop-goal secured a 21-20 win away to Italy, landing a key penalty after throwing the poor pass that led to Huget's try, Scotland had a one-point lead heading into the final quarter.
France kicked-off with a side showing seven changes to the one thrashed 26-7 by Wales last time out - a loss that prompted Saint-Andre to label his team "cry babies".
The very first scrum of the match saw France force a second-minute penalty which Machenaud kicked.
Eight minutes later good work by centres Maxime Mermoz and Mathieu Bastareaud took France to within sight of the try-line and Scotland were fortunate not to be a man down when they deliberately killed the ball in front of their posts.
Machenaud made no mistake and France were 6-0 in front, but two minutes later Scotland took the lead.
Laidlaw put up a clever high kick over the tryline which Huget failed to catch under pressure from Scotland counterpart Sean Lamont.
But fullback Hogg, following up, touched down and Pollock, after consulting the television match official, awarded the try.
Another Machenaud penalty took France 9-7 in front only for Scotland, on a Murrayfield pitch still disfigured by a parasitic infection, to regain the lead with a well-worked try as centre Matt Scott's delightful inside pass released wing Seymour to score in the corner.
Shortly before half-time France fullback Brice Dulin revived memories of his celebrated predecessor Serge Blanco by running the ball out from under his own posts only for skipper Pascal Pape to cut short an enterprising move with a knock-on.
There was still time for France to be awarded another penalty but this time Machenaud missed.
Scotland started the second half on the attack only for Huget to intercept a 'telegraphed' looping pass from Weir, intended for Dunbar, and sprint some 90 metres for a try under the posts.
The Scots, however, rallied and forward pressure forced a scrum penalty on the hour.
But Laidlaw's 45-metre kick fell short.
That miss prompted Laidlaw to hand kicking duties to Weir and his 42-metre penalty put Scotland 17-16 in front.
And with six minutes remaining, the Scottish front row won another scrum penalty on a pitch that had yet again been turned into a bog.
But Weir's 44-metre kick lacked both distance and direction.
France then won a penalty of their own which they kicked downfield for an attacking line-out.
They regathered possession and advanced into Scotland's 22.
And then came Pollock's decisive intervention, which was desperately tough on Scotland, who'd shown more flair than France and lacked for nothing in the forward exchanges.
Man of the match: Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg was impressive both at the back and taking the ball at first-receiver on attack.
Moment of the match: With Scotland on the attack in the French 22, flyhalf Duncan Weir threw a long pass which was read perfectly by Yoann Huget who intercepted and sprinted the length of the pitch to score.
Villain of the match: There were none.
Tries: Hogg, Seymour
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Machenaud 3, Doussain
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Dave Denton, 7 Kelly Brown (captain), 6 Johnnie Beattie, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Moray Low, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Max Evans.
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Sébastian Vahaamahina, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé (captain), 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 18 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Antoine Claassen, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Remi Tálès, 23 Gaël Fickou.
Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Ire), JP Doyle (RFU)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wal)
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