Six Nations 2014: France secure thrilling win over Scotland
Scotland 17 France 19: Jean-Marc Doussain’s last-minute penalty secures a dramatic win for the visitors
Jean-Marc Doussain’s last-minute penalty secured a 19-17 win for France in a Six Nations encounter controlled by Scotland at Murrayfield.
Tries in the first half from Glasgow Warriors duo Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour gave Scotland a narrow 14-9 lead at the break with an out-of-sorts France reliant on the kicking of scrum-half Maxime Machenaud.
An intercepted Duncan Weir pass allowed France wing Yoann Huget to storm away early in the second half with Machenaud’s conversion giving the visitors an unlikely 16-14 lead.
Weir made up for his earlier error to kick Scotland back in front before Doussain broke Scottish hearts and maintained France’s title ambitions ahead of the final round of matches next week.
France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre rang the changes after a calamitous display in Cardiff two weeks ago, but threats to international careers if the poor performances continued seemed not to have worked as Les Bleus produced an equally shambolic effort at Murrayfield.
Scrum-half Machenaud kicked France ahead in the opening minute, and followed it up with a second penalty in the 10th minute, but it was a lead that would last just two minutes more as Machenaud’s attempted clearance kick was charged down by second row giant Jim Hamilton.
Hogg put in a speculative up-and-under kick with few other options available in the France 22 and the full-back followed up his kick and after a combination of Sean Lamont, Brice Dunlin and Yoann Huget failed to get any purchase on the dropping ball beyond the France tryline, Hogg pounced on the loose ball. The TMO was on hand to confirm the score was good for the 21-year-old’s fourth try for his country, although replays indicated Huget’s fingertips appeared to have got to the ball first. Laidlaw stepped up to add the extras.
Offering very little in attack, France regained the lead three minutes later as Machenaud added a third penalty as Scotland racked up offences in the eyes of Kiwi referee Craig Pollock, but again it was short-lived as Seymour came off his right wing to finish off a fluid move in the left corner – something he had also done in training on Tuesday. Laidlaw again added the conversion.
Without their first and second choice hookers and big ball-carriers in back-rowers Yannick Nyanga and Louis Picamoles, France struggled with their set-piece throughout, but it inadvertently led to their only attacking play of the match five minutes into the second half.
Having lost possession again at a lineout, Scotland looked to move the ball wide again with men over, but Weir’s floated long pass found Huget who gratefully ran the ball back 80 metres unchallenged to score France’s only try of the match.
Machenaud’s conversion gave France a far from deserved 16-14 lead and sparked a further resurgence from Scott Johnson’s men, with France’s defence at the breakdown just about keeping them in the match against a dominant Scotland pack and backline happy to attack at will.
After Machenaud was penalised for a crooked feed at a scrum on half-way, Scotland opted to go again with loose-head Thomas Domingo penalised for boring. Laidlaw opted to kick, despite the mark being at the edge of his range and his effort in the swirling wind was just short.
Two minutes after Laidlaw’s miss, Sebastien Vahaamahina was penalised at the breakdown and Weir—Scotland’s kicking hero in Italy—took over from his half-back partner to edge over a successful kick to give Scotland a 17-16 lead with 19 minutes to go.
Mathieu Bastareaud briefly sprung to life and motored France into the Scotland 22, but any hopes of points were ended with a knock-on and Scotland were able to clear.
Another French scrum infringement with six minutes left on the clock gave Weir a chance to put the game beyond Saint-Andre’s men, but his long-range effort was short and wide as tension mounted among the home faithful.
At the same time as Weir’s kick failed, France replaced Machenaud with Doussain and, with less than two minutes remaining, a rare foray into the Scotland 22 produced the second defining moment for France as Scotland’s replacement lock Tim Swinson was penalised for not releasing – something referee Pollock had been consistent with throughtout.
In front of the posts, up stepped Doussain to slot the winning penalty and France recovered the ball from the restart to hold on for their third win of the championship and their ninth successive win over Scotland giving them even more to play for when Ireland travel to Paris next Saturday.
For Scotland, a third defeat leaves them with nothing but pride to play for in Scott Johnson’s final match, against his former employers.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby), Sean Lamont (Glasgow); Duncan Weir (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh); Ryan Grant (Glasgow), Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Richie Gray (Castres), Jim Hamilton (Montpellier), Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier), Kelly Brown (Saracens, captain), David Denton (Edinburgh)
Replacements: Ross Ford (for Lawson, 51), Moray Low, Euan Murray, Tim Swinson (for Hamilton, 68), Ryan Wilson (for Beattie, 16), Chris Cusiter, Duncan Taylor, Max Evans (for Lamont, 29).
Tries: Hogg, Seymour
Cons: Laidlaw (2)
Pens: Laidlaw, Weir
France: Brice Dulin (Castres); Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon), Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Jules Plisson (Stade Français), Maxime Machenaud (Racing Metro); Thomas Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), Brice Mach, Nicolas Mas (Montpellier), Pascal Pape (Stade Français), Yoann Maestri (Toulousse), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Perpignan), Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont), Damien Chouly (Clermont)
Replacements: Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan, for Mach, 47), Vincent Debaty (Clermont, for Domingo, 68), Rabah Slimani (Stade Français, for Mas, 59), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Français, for Maestri, 59), Antonie Claassen (Castres, for Vahaamahina, 66), Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse, for Machenaud, 74), Remi Tales (Castres, for Plisson, 46), Gaël Fickou (Toulouse, for Bastareaud, 68).
Pens: Machenaud (3), Doussain
Referee: Craig Pollock (NZRU)
Man of the Match: David Denton (Scotland)