By Alan Dymock at Murrayfield
The match in 30 seconds
Scotland went incredibly close to recording a tough victory over France, but a late penalty saw the hosts lose out to a disorganised, disheveled looking Bleus side, falling 19-17.
The game slipped away from Scotland who were good quality for their two tries – one from an opportunistic Stuart Hogg chasing his own high kick into France’s goal area and one from Tommy Seyomur who profited from lovely hands and a smart block to slide in for a second. However, a Yoann Huget interception metres from his own line was the first instant of A forward-running Scotland shooting themselves in the foot. The last and most telling turn from France after the referee gave a penalty to the visitors in the last play, with a perplexed Scotland adjudged to have put their hands in.
There wasn’t enough time left to get up the park after this late hammer blow.
Scotland – Tries: Hogg, Seymour. Con: Laidlaw 2. Pens: Weir
France –Tries: Huget. Con: Machenaud. Pens: .Machenaud 3
– France had a woeful day at the set-piece, losing no less than eight lineouts. They also lost two of their own scrums. They were also turned over from three of their own mauls.
– Prop Ryan Grant made 38m with ball in hand – more than Tommy Seymour or Alex Dunbar.
– Machenaud and Mermoz made five turnovers between them. When you add this to the teams 91% tackle success rate, it shows the counter-punch-nature of Scotland’s two smart tries.
– Lapandry was the day’s top tackler, claiming 14 on his own.
– Simply put, Scott Johnson was “absolutely gutted,” while Kelly Brown thanked the crowd, but apologised for not doing it for them. “I felt as if we had quite a lot of control, but it was very disappointing to lose it in the last couple of minutes.” Johnson called it “growing pains, but it’s a game we should have won. Sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t always reflect that.Those growing pains hurt.”
– There was a lot of chat from Scotland’s coach about the issue with referees’ differing approaches to the breakdown. Scotland conceded 13 penalties in this game. France conceded five.
– Sean Lamont went off with a knee complaint, while Johnnie Beattie was seen on the touchline with crutches after hurting his ankle.
– Scotland were close to a famous victory (though admittedly this was a shambles of a French outfit). With four minutes to go the Scots coughed up ball and allowed telling turnovers, which confident, smart, successful teams don’t do.
– Hogg and Laidlaw did brilliantly throughout the game, knocking balls into France’s corners of the pitch for players to hound? Why did they not do this when they were ahead? In the last game Scotland cannot be allowed to play thoughtless one-out-runner rugby at key moments in the game.
– France need major changes. This was the most passionless and poor French performance for some time. Winning like that deserves scant praise, but nothing more. If they do not play inspired, ruthless rugby in the next game it will be hard to see Philippe Saint-Andre leading them to the World Cup.
RW’s proposed Scotland XV v Wales: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Max Evans, Duncan Weir, Greig Laidlaw, Ryan Grant, Scott Lawson, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Ryan Wilson, Kelly Brown, David Denton.
OK, so consistency in the back row now looks impossible because of injuries, but good set-piece for a large part of the game must be rewarded. And when Hogg, Scott and Dunbar are confident you have to be excited about them playing together. This team needs to learn to consistently grind out wins, stringing them together, so let this group, right now, be as uniform as possible. It’s all good experience coming through the rough results and realizing they can do it.
RW’s proposed France XV v Ireland: Brice Dulin; Yoann Huget, Gael Fickou, Mathieu Bastareaud, Maxime Medard; Jules Plisson, Maxime Machenaud; Thomas Domingo, Brice Mach, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Pape, Yoann Maestri, Antonie Claassen, Wenceslas Lauret, Louis Picamoles.
The decision to play Vahaamaninha was an odd one to begin with, but in a scrambling game like this they needed scramblers. They’ll need something other than a lumbering lock against Ireland, too, who are quick off the mark. They also need to be able to slip through a wise old back-line next week. Maybe it is time for Fickou to play off the shoulder of a surprisingly energetic Bastareaud, before he runs out of steam?