12 Feb MATCH REPORT | France 22-16 Scotland
Scotland were unable to break their 18-year Parisien drought despite pushing France all the way in a highly attritional RBS 6 Nations match today (22-16).
The visitors paid a price for putting their bodies on the line against a large, aggressive French pack as a series of injuries and stoppages denied them any momentum or platform as the closely-fought game reached its climax.
The scores were tied 16-16 until a Camille Lopez penalty on 71 minutes edged the home side into a lead they would keep until the final whistle.
On a cold, dank Paris day Scotland were aiming to win their opening two matches in the RBS 6 Nations for the first time, fresh from a forceful and energy-infusing win against Ireland, there was determination to maintain momentum away from BT Murrayfied.
Scotland, though, had not won in Paris since 1999 and faced a French team going through their own growing pains under Head Coach Guy Noves, caught between playing to their size and strength without losing their spontaneous instincts.
Facing a heavier pack, led by number 8 Louis Picamoles and captain and hooker Guilhem Guirado, Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter predicted they would face a ‘juggernaut’ and the French lived up the billing.
France, on a run of three narrow defeats, albeit to Australia, New Zealand and England, were keen to get their tournament up and running.
Both sides played to type in the first half – France’s big runners offloading well and looking to keep the ball alive.
The Scots were resolute in defence and the half-time 13-11 score was a fair reflection of both sides trying to play rugby.
As it happened…
France were first on the scoreboard with a Lopez penalty on five minutes before Stuart Hogg marked his 50th cap with a well worked try ten minutes later.
Stand-off Finn Russell jinked into space in the French 22, passed to Huw Jones who drew the tackle and got the ball away to the full-back who scored his 16th try in the corner.
Laidlaw couldn’t convert but the visitors were the lead, though it lasted just five minutes as Lopez slotted a penalty inside the Scottish 22 (6-5).
France continued to employ their off-loading game but busy Scottish defence was putting them under pressure and forcing a series of dropped balls and knock-ons. The French scrum though was drawing penalties.
Scotland then weathered a difficult period as captain Greig Laidlaw limped off at 25 minutes, replaced by Ali Price for his second cap.
Price was immediately in the thick of it but this overboiled after Scotland had won a penalty in their own 22.
The busy Glasgow nine rushed Lopez to retrieve the ball to either take or at least feign a quick tap but his shove, which sparked a short melee, saw the penalty reversed.
Fortunately for the Scots Lopez hit the post.
France then built their most intense passage of play of the first half, swarming the visitor’s 22 and eventually finding a glimmer of space for wing Gael Fickou to crash through from short range to score. Lopez converted (13-5).
Scotland then lost stand-in captain John Barclay to injury, replaced by John Hardie.
Despite the disruption the visitors ended the half strongly, two Russell penatiies in quick succession meaning the second half was perfectly poised (13-11).
Half–time: France 13-11 Scotland
Scotland’s injury woes began again from the kick-off for the second half as Hardie suffered a blow to the head and was replaced by Tim Swinson.
However, in the resulting passages of play, Russell found space in an outside channel, off-loaded to Tommy Seymour who kicked deep into the French 22 and won the footrace with Scott Spedding to retrieve the ball.
He quickly shipped the ball back inside to Swinson who scored under the posts for his first Scotland try. Russell failed to convert after the ball slipped on the tee (13-16).
Frustratingly for the visitors, France quickly won back another penalty which Lopez kicked to tie the scores on 43 minutes (16-16).
Russell’s restart went directly into touch, giving France a scrum in the centre of the pitch, which once again put the Scottish pack under pressure and drew a penalty.
Spedding tried to gain the lead from half-way but his kick fell short.
The intensity of contest failed to drop with Strauss and Watson at the heart of the Scottish effort, carrying, disrupting and tackling.
Prop Gordon Reid came on for Allan Dell and Edinburgh Rugby’s Simon Berghan made his debut when replacing Zander Fagerson.
As the hour passed Scotland found themselves increasingly on the back foot but defending with typical intensity.
France were denied a certain try when centre Remi Lamerat failed to ground the ball after they ran from a scrum thanks to close attention from Huw Jones and Hamish Watson.
Scotland had the scrum for the knock-on and won a penalty to clear their lines again.
Shortly after though replacement scrum-half Maxime Machenaud won a penalty at the breakdown inside the Scottish half and Lopez was able to put the home side into the lead (19-16).
A final attack from Scotland saw Russell knock-on which saw France earn penalty at the resulting scrum, which Lopez again slotted to give the home side their first win of tournament.
Full time: France 22-16 Scotland
FRANCE: 15. Scott Spedding, 14. Noa Nakaitaci, 13. Remi Lamerat, 12. Gael Fickou, 11. Virimi Vakatawa, 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Baptiste Serin; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Guilhem Guirado (capt), 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Loann Goujon, 7. Kevin Gourdon, 8. Louis Picamoles. Substitutes: 16. Christopher Tolofua, 17. Rabah Slimani, 18. Xavier Chiocci, 19. Julien 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, 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. John Barclay, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Josh Strauss. Substitutes: 16. Ross Ford on for Brown (67’), 17. Gordon Reid on for Del (45’), 18. Simon Berghan on for Fagerson (60’), 19. Tim Swinson on for Hardie (42’), 20. John Hardie on for Barclay (36’), 21. Ali Price on for Laidlaw (24’), 22. Duncan Weir on for Russell (75’), 23. Mark Bennet on for Dunbar (57’ then reversed at 62’)
France v Scotland, Stade de France
– RBS 6 Nations (kick-off 3pm GMT), live on BBC –
- France have lost their last three matches at Stade de France
- Since 1982, France have only once begun a Championship campaign with a pair of defeats (2013)
- 29-18: Scotland’s victory over France at BT Murrayfield last year ended a ten-game losing streak to the Frenchmen
- The last time that Scotland won successive tests against France was in 1963-1964
- 1999: Scotland won on their first ever visit to Stade de France but have lost on each of their nine visits since
France selection news
- Half-back sub Jean-Marc Doussain will be hoping to add to his tally of 15 caps on what will be his 26th birthday
- The XV has 318 test caps between them; the bench has a further 178 caps
- The average age of the walk-on team is 26.9 years.
Head Coach Guy Noves has reselected almost the entire team beaten by England in the opening round, with the only change, Loann Goujon, starting inplace of Damien Chouly.
The Bordeaux-Begles player will looked to as a key ball-carrier to the home side, alongside the impressive Kévin Gourdon and Louis Picamoles.
On the bench, two changes see Christopher Tolofua take the place of Clément Maynadier and, in the second-row, Julien Le Devedec replaces Arthur Iturria.
Scotland selection news
- Stuart Hogg will become the youngest player in history to reach a half century of Scotland caps
- Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw are the half-back partners for the 23rd time – fourth place on the all-time Scottish list.
- The XV has 404 test caps between them; the bench has a further 205 caps
- The average age of the walk-on team is 26.5 years.
Back-row John Barclay is the only change to the starting Scotland side, as a straight replacement for Ryan Wilson, who failed to recover sufficiently from an elbow infection.
Edinburgh Rugby’s John Hardie – who was due to start against Ulster in the Guinness PRO12 on Friday swapped a flight to Belfast for Paris to take up the vacated place on the bench.
FRANCE: 15. Scott Spedding; 14. Noa Nakaitaci, 13. Gael Fickou, 12. Remi Lamerat, 11. Virimi Vakatawa; 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Baptiste Serin; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Guilhem Guirado CAPTAIN, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Yoann Maestri, 5. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 6. Loann Goujon, 7. Kévin Gourdon, 8. Louis Picamoles. Substitutes: 16. Christopher Tolofua, 17. Rabah Slimani, 18. Xavier Chiocci, 19. Julien 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 CAPTAIN; 1. Allan Dell, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. John Barclay, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Josh Strauss. Substitutes: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Simon Berghan, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. John Hardie, 21. Ali Price, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Mark Bennett.