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France seal first win

16th March 2013 21:56

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France v Scotland Frederic Michalak

Crunched: Frederic Michalak

France battled to a 23-16 win over Scotland on a wet night in Paris in the final match of the 2013 Six Nations.

The visitors were impressive in defence during the first half as they repelled multiple phases of French attacks, with two Greig Laidlaw penalties putting them 6-0 ahead going into the break.

But France were rejuvenated in the second half, the introduction of Maxime Machenaud transforming their fortunes as they first took the lead thanks to three penalties from Frederic Michalak and then further with two tries from Wesley Fofana and Maxime Médard.

It concluded a miserable tournament for France who finish bottom of the table for the first time since 1999, but Scotland will take heart from their showing in Paris as they improved on negative pre-tournament expectations given the interim head coaching appointment of Scott Johnson.

France tore up the fragile pitch with a series of impressive scrums in the opening five minutes, but it was Scotland who took the lead thanks to a penalty from scrum-half Laidlaw.

Laidlaw furthered the Scots lead minutes later after good French pressure, the hosts unable to put points on the scoreboard early on.

A series of French scrums near the Scottish try line took up a fair chunk of the first half and frustratingly failed to yield any points, with Scotland escaping thanks to consistent defence as boos rang around the Stade de France.

A clever piece of skill from Vincent Clerc kept a Michalak cross-field kick in play, volleying the ball into the path of Yoann Huget, but the French attack eventually broke down following a knock on from Fofana.

Scotland looked the brighter attacking threat going into half-time, replacement Max Evans chipping through but he was beaten to the ball by Maxime Médard. No further scores before the interval meant France were without any points by half-time.

France did finally find their way onto the scoreboard five minutes into the second half, Michalak adding a penalty after good pressure at the scrum.

The hosts then drew level with another Michalak penalty a few minutes later, before completing the turnaround with a third Michalak strike on 54 minutes to take a 9-6 lead.

Laidlaw levelled the scores with a third penalty, but then France took control.

Wesley Fofana capitalised on some fine offloading down the right hand side to grab the game's first try, with Michalak converting.

Bastareaud's break then led to a second French score from Médard as France opened up some daylight between themselves and the visitors. Michalak was forced to retire hurt, receiving warm applause from the crowd after a difficult Six Nations, leaving Machenaud to convert.

Scotland then went from 22 to 22 to score a breakaway try for Tim Visser, giving the Scots hope as time ticked away. They were unable to seal another victory though as France clung on, easing the pressure on Philippe Saint-André but meaning that they finish the championship at the bottom of the table.

Man of the match: A real game-changing substitute, the introduction of scrum-half Maxime Machenaud switched the home sides's fortunes as he worked with first Michalak and then François Trinh-Duc.

Moment of the match: A half-time rollicking from Philippe Saint-André appeared to snap France into life, as they took the lead with three penalties after the break and then ran in two tries.

Villain of the match: That man Michalak again baffled with his selection, and was forced to leave the field due to injury as a respite after a nasty forearm earlier on.

The scorers:

For France:
Tries: Fofana, Médard
Cons: Michalak, Machenaud
Pens: Michalak 3

For Scotland:
Try: Visser
Con: Laidlaw
Pens: Laidlaw 3

The teams:

France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Antonie Claassen, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Christophe Samson, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 François Trinh-Duc, 23 Florian Fritz or Gael Fickou.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Max Evans.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)

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1Ireland58
2England58
3Wales56
4France56
5Scotland52
6Italy50