France survive Scotland scare
SCOTLAND 17 FRANCE 23
Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg dives over to score the opening try. Photo: Stu Forster
EDINBURGH: World Cup finalists France overcame a 10-point deficit to beat Scotland 23-17 at Murrayfield here on Sunday and keep their hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam alive.
Victory made it two wins out of two for the French, whose previous encounter against Ireland was postponed because of a frozen pitch in Paris.
But the cold truth on Sunday for an improved Scotland was they'd suffered a fifth straight defeat -- and third in as many matches this Six Nations.
Wesley Fofana of France crashes over for a try despite the tackle of Mike Blair. Photo: Reuters
Tries from teenager Stuart Hogg and wing Lee Jones gave Scotland hope but these were cancelled out by scores from France centre Wesley Fofana and full-back Maxime Medard, while scrum-half Morgan Parra kicked 10 points.
France captain Thierry Dusautoir admitted his side had been caught cold by the Scots, who lost much needed impetus when Edinburgh half-back duo Mike Blair and Greig Laidlaw went off injured either side of the interval.
"We were taken aback by by the rhythm and dynamism of the Scots in the opening 15 minutes," said the flanker, who was outstanding when he captained France in an 8-7 World Cup final defeat by the All Blacks.
France scrape home against Scotland
Scotland's lock Richie Gray (L) vies with France's lock Pascal Pape (C) next to Scotland's Duncan Weir. Photo: AFP
"We got back into it little by little and found our own rhythm and gradually asserted ourselves on the match against a really good Scottish side."
Scotland's Ross Rennie was named man-of-the-match after an impressive display but that was little consolation to the openside flanker.
"We put in another massive effort and to come away with nothing, everyone is pretty down. We made some good breaks and scored some good tries, but on turnover attack the French were awesome and we let them be good."
Greg Laidlaw kicks a conversion for Scotland. Photo: AFP
Scotland spent the opening few minutes encamped in France's 22 but it looked like being an all-too familar story when, after several phases against resolute French defence, they knocked on.
But France knocked on themselves from the ensuing scrum and handed possession back to Scotland.
Laidlaw shifted the ball to the blindside and quick hands from Jones sent the diving full-back Hogg in at the right corner in the eighth minute as the 19-year-old, making his first Test start, became Scotland's youngest try-scorer in 79 years.
Laidlaw converted and Scotland were 7-0 up.
Blair then caused more panic in the visitors' defence with a quickly-taken tap penalty before Dusautoir dumped prop Geoff Cross with a shuddering hit.
Laidlaw then kicked a penalty from a ruck infringement after No 8 David Denton and captain Ross Ford had surged downfield and Scotland, against virtually all expectations, were 10-0 in front in the 26th minute.
France though eventually showed their class two minutes later when fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc went straight through an attempted challenge by Laidlaw.
Quick hands from Parra and Vincent Clerc then sent in Fofana, running a sharp angle, for what was the centre's second try in as many Tests.
Parra converted and Scotland's lead was down to 10-7.
Scotland then lost Rory Lamont after he landed awkwardly while contesting a re-start with Louis Picamoles and Robinson said later the Glasgow back had suffered a suspected broken leg.
One area where France were maintaining their anticipated advantage was the scrum and when Scotland collapsed the set-piece shortly before half-time, Parra kicked a 35 metre penalty.
But he missed another before the break as a breathless first half ended all square at 10-10.
After the frenetic opening 40 minutes, France resumed in more composed fashion with their pack driving through several phases before Scotland infringed. Parra kicked the 47th minute penalty and France, who had been 10 points behind, were now three in front at 13-10.
Even so, it was Scotland who scored the next try.
Flanker John Barclay forced a turnover at a ruck and was then back on his feet to feed Nick de Luca.
The ball was then worked to Jones as the wing went in for his first try for his country. Duncan Weir, on for the injured Laidlaw, kicked the conversion and Scotland were 17-13 ahead.
Scotland though were behind again within minutes.
France wing Julien Malzieu ran through the attempted challenge of Jones and released Medard for a try under the posts.
Parra added the simple conversion and France were 20-17 up heading into the final quarter.
Scotland then gifted France turnover ball and the visitors' drove deep into the 22, creating the platform for Lionel Beauxis to land a drop-goal that gave the French a six-point lead with 11 minutes remaining.
And that proved too much to overcome for Scotland, who at full-time were left facing yet another battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
FRANCE 23 (Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard tries; Morgan Parra 2 con, 2 pens; Lionel Beauxis drop goal) def SCOTLAND 17 (Stuart Hogg, Lee Jones tries; Greig Laidlaw, Duncan Weir con; Laidlaw pen). Referee: Wayne Barnes (ENG). Att: 67,144