What's hot and what's not from Scotland's Six Nations clash with France at Murrayfield
Scotland ended two of international rugby’s most unenviable streaks: this victory was their first home win in the Six Nations in eight attempts, and their first defeat of France since beating them a decade ago – 11 meetings ago. Vern Cotter’s men climb to third on the back of back-to-back wins, while the French slip to fourth.
England have won the title with a week to spare – their first since 2011 and the first time a team has bagged the Six Nations swag before the final day. But Paris next weekend will be no cakewalk against a French team who continue to play with great ambition.
Stuart Hogg – The Glasgow full-back is surely the best 15 in the tournament. He took his 33rd-minute try wonderfully, using nifty footwork, and his turnover hit led to the penalty from which Duncan Taylor scored soon after.
Then Hogg slotted a goal from his own half to take Scotland three scores clear on 47 minutes, and his magical tip-on gave Tim Visser the room to score Scotland’s third try with 14 minutes remaining. Throw in his booming line kicking and it was a mightily impressive showing from the Man of the Match.
Other shout-outs go to WP Nel for his anchor role at the scrum, the ever-excellent John Hardie and the probing Peter Horne, who was summoned from the bench with indecent haste after the concussion suffered by Finn Russell.
For France, captain Giulhem Guirado was again to the fore and in scoring he became the first France hooker to bag two tries in a championship. Maxime Machenaud, unfairly neglected under the previous regime, gave the match a great tempo with his tap-and-goes. It was infectious because Taylor’s score came from a tap penalty on his own 10m line!
Ambition – France set their stall out from the off, with Virimi Vakatawa and Wesley Fofana offloading on the right flank to give Guirado his try in the fourth minute.
Whatever you may say about Guy Noves, he’s demanding a high-risk attacking game, with offloads in all areas, that is exciting to watch. Had they not lost their best ball-carrier Louis Picamoles to injury this year, the French might still have been fighting for the title.
Referee empathy – it took courage to ignore the TMO’s highlighting of a slight tug by Greig Laidlaw on Wenceslas Lauret in the build-up to Taylor’s try. But Glen Jackson was spot on. It was innocuous and had no bearing on the play. Play on!
Scrum tedium – We wouldn’t want to suggest this match was in any way exceptional, because boring drawn-out scrums are now part and parcel of a lot of elite-level matches in the northern hemisphere. But the point must be made again and again – too much time is being frittered away by slow scrum engagements and repeated resets.
Jackson was quite passive in his officiating of this area, which didn’t help matters. We counted eight penalties or free-kicks from scrums and something has to change. Justin Marshall and Thomas Castaignede are two ex-pros who advocate reducing the potential for a three-point sanction – is that the answer?
French handling – If we are to praise the French for their adventure, we need also to admonish them for their execution. There were simply too many handling errors, some induced by poor delivery from the passer. Why can’t the country that gave us Blanco and Sella and Castaignede move the ball efficiently from one side of the pitch to the other?
However, you sense that, on a day when France play with that joie de vivre and the passes stick, someone somewhere is going to be in for a hiding. England need to be on their guard next weekend in a stadium where their last three Six Nations matches have been decided by just two points.
10 – The number of tackles made by John Hardie and Yoann Maestri, joint top in the match
1 – France only had one scrum put-in! They won it for a 100% return
59% – Scotland’s possession dominance, to go with 57% territory
14 – Number of offloads by France. They do like to give it a go
12 – Number of carries made by Maxime Machenaud – beating Josh Strauss for top place
498 – Test points scored by Greig Laidlaw, who kicked 11 today on his 50th appearance. He will be the third Scot to pass 500 points with his next successful kick
Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour, D Taylor, A Dunbar, T Visser; F Russell (P Horne 5), G Laidlaw (capt); A Dickinson, R Ford (S McInally 67), WP Nel (M Low 72), R Gray (T Swinson 77), J Gray, J Barclay, J Hardie, J Strauss (R Wilson 61).
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Sean Lamont
Tries: Hogg, Taylor, Visser. Con: Laidlaw. Pens: Laidlaw 3, Hogg.
France: S Spedding; V Vakatawa, G Fickou, M Mermoz (M Medard 68), W Fofana; F Trinh-Duc (J Plisson 68), M Machenaud (S Bezy 74); J Poirot (V Pelo 61-64), G Guirado (capt, C Chat 69), R Slimani (U Atonio 61), Y Maestri, A Flanquart (S Vahaamahina 51), W Lauret, Y Camara (L Goujon 64), D Chouly.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Sébastien Bézy, 22 Jules Plisson, Maxime Médard.
Tries: Guirado, Fickou. Con: Machenaud. Pens: Machenaud 2.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Man of the Match: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
For the latest Rugby World subscription offers, click here.