Planet Rugby

France edge out Scotland

08th March 2014 19:03

Share:

Scotland v France: Yoann Huget

Try for France: Yoann Huget

Jean-Marc Doussain kicked a 78th minute penalty to see France claim a 19-17 win over Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Scots had led through tries from Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour to three Maxime Machenaud penalties, before Yoann Huget's interception brought France roaring back into the lead.

A long-range Duncan Weir three-pointer renewed the hosts' belief, but it was Doussain's effort inside the 22 that dealt Scott Johnson's men a gut-wrenching finale.

Kiwi referee Chris Pollock is traditionally strict on the defensive team at the breakdown, and the words "no clear release" crackled over his microphone time and again as players piled into rucks. The New Zealander may require a police presence at his city-centre hotel this evening, however, after he penalised Scotland's Tim Swinson - predictably for the same offence - for Doussain's decisive kick.

Scotland's line-out woes are painfully well-documented, but it was the French who lost their way in the aerial duel. Third-choice hooker Brice Mach missed his man on seven from ten occasions before being substituted early in the second half.

Up front, the scrums were a mess. Pollock dished out instructions aplenty, but time-consuming resets were the norm on the scrappy Murrayfield turf. The signs were ominous for the Scots as their first set-piece crashed to ground ninety seconds into the match, allowing Maxime Machenaud the chance to open to the scores with a well-taken penalty.

The hosts were let off the hook minutes later too; a Scott Lawson knock-on sparked a sweeping sixty-metre counter-attack from les Bleus, with Maxime Mermoz scragged metres short of the line. A try eluded the visitors, but the pressure yielded a second penalty for the scrum-half.

Despite the early scoreline, the Scots were enjoying the bulk of possession, building phases well inside the French half. And after Jim Hamilton charged down Machenaud on the visitors' 22, Hogg hoisted a speculative hanging kick deep into the gaping Murrayfield in-goal area. Under pressure from Sean Lamont, the ball was fumbled by Huget, allowing the full-back to pounce and ground somewhat dubiously for one the more bizarre tries the famous old ground has seen in recent years. Greig Laidlaw knocked over the extras, and suddenly the hosts were in the lead.

Straight from the kick-off, however, Dave Denton lost the ball in contact on his own 22; the French gathered and pounded the line. The way the Scots repelled the advances of the visitors was admirable, but Hamilton was eventually penalised in the shadow of his own posts. Machenaud kicked France ahead again, while the stretcher was driven on and carted off again carrying Johnnie Beattie - who had taken a knock during the move - with it. Ryan Wilson replaced the blindside flanker.

That didn't faze Scotland, as they drove their way into the French 22 once more, and produced an uncharacteristically astute piece of backline play to cross the line again. With a flash of zip more associated with their opponents, Matt Scott caught out the drifting blindside defence with a delightful inside ball to the onrushing Seymour. The winger scythed through the gap and dived over in the corner; Laidlaw slotted a fine conversion, and Johnson's charges began to believe.

The visitors continued to look dangerous when presented with turnover ball or loose touchfinders, though; Hogg's attempted drop goal almost leading to a Serge Blanco-esque counter from Brice Dulin under his own posts.

Hamilton was - perhaps harshly - pinged for his over-exuberant infiltration of a collapsed French maul on half-time, but Machenaud was wide with his fourth penalty attempt, leaving the Scots five points to the good at the break.

What they did next was typical of this side's maddening tendency to shoot themselves in the foot. In truth, it was terribly Scottish. The hosts had disrupted a French maul on the five-metre line so effectively as to steal back possession; the ball was swept left, the overlap was there, the supporters were already cheering try number three.

But Duncan Weir, with any number of options outside him, floated his pass to the one place it would not find a white jersey. Huget, gambling to nothing, picked it off and sprinted eighty metres to score untouched. Machenaud knocked over the simple conversion.

The Scots should have been shellshocked; the game should have turned in a flash. But Johnson's men showed a resolve and indeed accuracy they have seldom displayed in this Championship. Play opened up and became more fragmented; a development that should have favoured the French, but appeared to suit the Scots' desire to give the ball some air when they could.

Trailing by two points, Laidlaw's near-fifty-metre penalty attempt fell agonisingly under the crossbar, but when the French infringed again in the same area, it was Weir who had a chance to make amends for his earlier interception. The Glasgow Warriors pivot showed great character to step up and drill his kick over.

As the French error count grew, so did the confidence of the home crowd, the mood in the stands very audibly shifting from disbelief to bullishness as a series of French scrums thirty-five metres out yielded nothing but a Scottish put-in, and Mermoz spurned a fine attacking opportunity on the Scottish 22 by spilling the ball.

Another scrum penalty just shy of halfway offered Weir the chance to take the gap beyond the crucial three point margin with five minutes remaining, but the fly-half could not repeat his goal-kicking heroics, pushing his effort just wide of the uprights.

It would be terribly cruel to lay blame for the loss at the door of the 22-year-old, but his interception pass combined with that difficult miss left the gap at two points as the clocked ticked by. With a minute left, the Scottish dream turned nightmarish as Pollock blew up metres from the home line. Doussain did not wilt under the defeaning racket of 60,000 enraged Scots, and so shattered their team's chances of a first win over France since 2006.

Man of the Match: Plenty of candidates, but Hogg gets the nod for his vision in attack, and booming boot that frequently kept the Scots out of their own half.

Moment of the Match: Huget's try should have been seminal, but it was Doussain's penalty that was the ultimate difference.

Villain of the Match: Nothing sinister to report.

The scorers:

For France:
Try: Huget
Con: Machenaud
Pens: Machenaud 3, Doussain

For Scotland:
Tries: Hogg, Seymour
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pen: Weir

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 (c), 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 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 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 Tálčs, 23 Gaël Fickou

Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)

By Jamie Lyall
@JLyall93

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland vs TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Preview
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26