Six Nations champions France sent out a statement to their rivals on Saturday with an impressive 34-21 win over Scotland in Paris.
Defending Six Nations champions France sent out a statement to their championship rivals on Saturday with an impressive 34-21 win over Scotland in Paris.
Unlike the nightmare against Australia the last time les Bleus were at the Stade de France, Marc LiÃ¨vremont's side were all singing from the same hymn sheet as they scored four eye-catching tries.
Out-muscled up front, outpaced out wide, Scotland looked down and out with an hour left on the clock. Credit to them however for scoring three tries of their own by the final whistle, with a late consolation touch down lending the scoreline an air of respectability.
Scotland's scrum has been a strength in recent times but the French scrum is quite possibly the best there is right now and they showed the world as much. It's not often that Euan Murray is put under pressure at scrum time but the Scottish tighthead, like the rest of the visiting front row, was going either backwards or down all evening from the moment the “engage” call came from referee Wayne Barnes.
But for a change, the French backs were also firing and the hosts ensured that the game was played at a frenetic pace.
The French off-loading in the tackle and support running on the counter attack had their visitors scampering back with high frequency and only a handful of last-gasp tackles prevented the score-line from running away in the first half.
By full-time, Maxime MÃ©dard, Imanol Harinordoquy and Damien Traille had all touched down, all from movements started in broken play.
France were cruising to such an extent that LiÃ¨vremont had no fear of disrupting his team by sending most of his bench on well before the last quarter.
France were on the scoreboard with the almost their first touch of the ball. From a turnover in the tackle Thierry Dusautoir fed wing-turned-centre AurÃ©lien Rougerie who dropped the ball onto his left boot. MÃ©dard turned on the gas on the outside and dotted down for the opening try after just three minutes.
A FranÃ§ois Trinh-Duc drop goal saw the French take a ten-point lead after as many minutes.
Scotland did well to hang in there and Alastair Kellock's first Test try at the end of the first quarter kept his side in contention. After some solid build-up play the skipper found a gap on the fringe of a ruck to sneak over.
But the visitors failed to threaten for the rest of the first period. Referee Barnes was left with no choice but to award France with a penalty try on the half-hour mark after the visitors' pack was murdered in series of 5metre scrums.
Scotland would have been relieved to head to the changing rooms at 17-7.
Trinh-Duc linked up with Harinordoquy – via a pass between the fly-half's legs – to get the scoreboard ticking in the second period with the big loose forward backing himself for pace to finish under the sticks.
Again the reply came from Scotland as Kelly Brown profited from some sloppy tackling to charge over and reduce the gap to ten points.
The changes had taken some of the rhythm out of the French attack but they were still lethal from broken play and a silky string of interpassing saw Traille end under the posts.
With the result sewn up, Lamont grabbed a try in the dying minutes as the French defence went missing.
Ironically the game ended – like it did against the Wallabies – with a few boos coming the crowd who were denied another try when France opted for an easy penalty rather than going for the whitewash.
Man of the match: A handful of candidates here. Richie Gray had a strong game for Scotland while Maxime MÃ©dard and FranÃ§ois Trinh-Duc looked good for the hosts. But we'll go for prop Thomas Domingo who, along with William Servat and Nicolas Mas, was awesome at scrum time.
Moment of the match: Went it's going right for les Bleus, it seems anything is possible. FranÃ§ois Trinh-Duc's between the legs pass to set up Harinordoquy's try was a classic!
Villain of the match: Nothing to report here. A wonderful night of rugby.
Tries: MÃ©dard, Penalty try, Harinordoquy, Traille
Cons: Parra 2, Yachvili 2
Tries: Kellock, Brown, Lamont
Cons: Parks 2, Jackson
France: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 AurÃ©lien Rougerie, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Maxime MÃ©dard, 10 FranÃ§ois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Luc Ducalcon, 18 Jerome Thion, 19 SÃ©bastien Chabal, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 Vincent Clerc, 22 ClÃ©ment Poitrenaud.
Scotland: 15 Hugo Southwell , 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Joe Ansbro, 12 Nick De Luca, 11 Max Evans, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Rory Lawson, 8 Kelly Brown,7 John Barclay, 6 Nathan Hines, 5 Alastair Kellock (c),4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray,2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Richie Vernon, 19 Ross Rennie, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Sean Lamont.
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Referee: Wayne Barnes