By Gavin Mortimer
France 23 Scotland 16
In a nutshell
FRANCE WON their first Six Nations encounter since victory over Scotland on February 26 last year, a winless streak of seven matches that was still not enough to prevent them finishing bottom of the championship table for the first time since 1999. A tense, tryless first-half ended with the Scots ahead 6-0 but the French were galvanised into action after the break, though the doughty Scottish defence held firm until 67 minutes when Wesley Fofana found space out on the right and evaded the tackle of Stuart Hogg. Maxime Medard went in under the posts for try number two three minutes later, and though Scotland scored a brilliant try four minutes from time, Tim Visser’s effort wasn’t enough to prevent a French victory. Despite the defeat the Scots finished in third place, although with two wins from five matches that just emphasizes the gulf in class between the top two teams (Wales and England) and the rest in this season’s Six Nations.
The half-time team talk. Whatever France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said to his players during the interval, it had the desired effect as Les Bleus (playing in their white away strip) came out transformed for the second-half. Perhaps Saint-Andre – a softly-spoken, genial man by nature – took a leaf out of Alex Ferguson’s book and gave his boys the hairdryer treatment, or as the French would say le traitement Sèche-cheveux.
Star Man: Mathieu Bastareaud.
The 18-stone Toulon centre finally lived up to his billing as a bulldozer, smashing holes in the Scottish defence with several powerful runs. Bastareaud, who was dropped after the England game, broke the visitors’ line on 70 minutes and enabled Maxime Medard to scoot in under the posts for the decisive try.
Matt Scott: Matt Scott has progressed game by game in this Six Nations, and the 22-year-old Edinburgh centre created Scotland’s try with a sublime break from his own 22 and then a deft pass to Tim Visser roaring up on his inside. Quick, skilful and subtle, Scott offers a glorious alternative to the battering ram style of Manu Tuilagi and Jamie Roberts.
Euan Murray: This was not an ideal night for scrummaging. Not just the rain that had been falling throughout the evening in Paris but also the shameful state of the Stade de France pitch that cut up within minutes. Nonetheless Scotland tighthead prop Euan Murray struggled against Thomas Domingo at scrum-time and the 32-year-old is beginning to look his age.
Johnnie Beattie Not the best night for Beattie in Paris. A couple of glaring dropped catches under the high ball and also overshadowed physically by his opposite number, the formidable Louis Picamoles.
How dominant was the French scrum? Their pack won 12 scrums and lost none
Both sides kicked away 33 per cent of possession
The Scottish defence, hitherto so reliable in the championship, fell away in the second half as the Scots missed 18 tackles.
Questions remain about the ability of the French to convert pressure into points. In Paris they had had 73 per cent of the territory but still only won by seven points.
France: Tries: Fofana, Medard. Cons: Michalak, Machenaud. Pens: Michalak 3
Scotland: Try: Visser. Con: Jackson. Pens: Laidlaw 3.