France hold off Scotland for first win

Date published: February 12 2017

France got their campaign back on track when they secured a hard-fought 22-16 win over Scotland in Paris on Sunday.

In an entertaining encounter, in which both teams kept the ball alive at every opportunity, momentum between the two sides ebbed and flowed, but it was the hosts who got the rub of the green in the end coming away with a deserved victory.

Scotland will be kicking themselves, however, as they were competitive for large periods, but could not repeat last week’s heroics when they stunned Ireland at Murrayfield.

And although they outscored their hosts by two tries to one, they conceded too many penalties and when it was within goalkicking range, les Bleus pivot Camille Lopez made them pay and eventually finished with a 17-point haul courtesy of five penalties and a conversion.

France drew first blood courtesy of a Lopez penalty in the sixth minute after Josh Strauss played the ball on the ground but the game came alive ten minutes later when Scotland took the lead when Stuart Hogg rounded off a superb team try.

This after the ball went through umpteen phases in the build-up and Huw Jones deserves special praise as he did well to draw in Virimi Vakatawa before offloading to Hogg, who dived over in the right-hand corner despite a desperate tackle from Baptiste Serin.

The try was a fitting reward for Hogg in his 50th Test as it meant he became the fifth Scot to score a try in four successive Championship matches.

Greig Laidlaw’s conversion attempt struck the cross-bar but France regained the lead when Lopez slotted another penalty two minutes later.

The visitors suffered a setback midway through the half when their captain, Laidlaw, left the field due to injury with Ali Price replacing him at scrum-half and Finn Russell taking over the goalkicking duties.

France took Scotland on at their attacking game and were rewarded in the 30th minute when, after taking the ball through 12 phases in the build-up, Scott Spedding offloaded to Gaël Fickou, who crashed over from close quarters with two defenders on his back.

Lopez added the extras but Scotland continued to fight and after Russell added two penalties, the hosts held a slender 13-11 lead at the interval.

Shortly after the restart, Scotland were dealt another blow when John Hardie was forced off the field with a head knock but his replacement, Tim Swinson, soon made his presence felt when, three minutes after entering the playing field, when he crossed for Scotland’s second try.

This after Tommy Seymour had done brilliantly in the build-up. The flyer found himself in space down the left-hand touchline and delivered a teasing kick ahead which bamboozled Spedding inside France’s 22.

Seymour did well to regather and offloaded to the on-rushing Swinson who went over under the uprights. Crucially, however, Russell failed to add the easy extras – when the ball fell off the kicking tee – which meant the visitors held a slender three-point lead.

France were soon level when Lopez added his third penalty in the 47th minute and although the next 25 minutes was a slugfest as both sides tried to gain the ascendancy, the hosts were gradually gaining the upperhand.

Lopez put his team back in front with another penalty in the 71st minute and five minutes later he sealed his team’s win with his final three-pointer from the kicking tee.

The scorers:

For France:
Con: Lopez
Pens: Lopez 5

For Scotland:
Hogg, Swinson
Pens: Russell 2

France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Loann Goujon, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Xavier Chiocci, 19 Julian Le Devedec, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Yoann Huget

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw(c), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 John Hardie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)