France v Scotland report: visitors leave themselves with too much of a mountain to climb

Visitors cough up three tries in a chaotic opening 20 minutes

Close but no cigar for Zander Fagerson and Scotland in Paris. Image: © Craig Watson -
Close but no cigar for Zander Fagerson and Scotland in Paris. Image: © Craig Watson -

France 32

Scotland 21

DAVID BARNES @ Stade de France

HAVING lost two tries and Grant Gilchrist to a red-card, Scotland looked dead and buried after seven minutes. They then fell even further behind when Thomas Ramos scored an interception try to make it 19-0 after 20 minutes. So Gregor Townsend’s side deserve credit for fighting their way back to just four points off the pace with just seconds left – but they will also be deeply frustrated at playing such a proactive role in their own downfall.

Taking on the number two ranked team in the world in their own backyard was always going to be a tough challenge, and Scotland – who were seeking a third win on the bounce in this Six Nations – can draw some confidence from making it a real contest despite that horror start as they begin preparing for the arrival of Grand Slam chasing Ireland (the world’s number one ranked team) at Murrayfield in a fortnight’s time.

However, they will have to be an awful lot more accurate in that match if they are going to get a result in that match, because there was errors at key moments, tries given away and golden scoring opportunities squandered in this contest.

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The tenor of a chaotic first quarter was established when France grabbed the lead with only four minutes played by squeezing a holding-on penalty out of Duhan van der Merwe and then working through several powerful phases before space opened up on the left for Roman Ntamack to bustle over.

It went from bad to disaster for Scotland just two minutes later when Grant Gilchrist challenged Anthony Jelonch high and his shoulder made contact with the French flanker’s jaw, with Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli referring the incident to the TMO and after viewing several angles he decided that it merited a red-card.

France took immediate advantage of the extra man, marching downfield and engineering an overlap for Ntamack to send Ethan Dumortier over for try number two.

With Hamish Watson – just back after three and a half months out with concussion – sacrificed so that Jonny Gray could fill the gap in the engine-room created by Gilchrist’s departure, Scotland dug deep and battled their way into a promising position five yards from the French line.

And the visitors finally caught a break when Mohamed Haouas threw himself round the side of a ruck and clashed heads with Ben White, leading to another referral to Television Match Official which reached the same verdict as it had with the Gilchrist incident, with the French prop being sent for an early bath – just as he was back in 2020 when he was red-carded for throwing a wild punch at Jamie Ritchie.

Zander Fagerson thought he’d got Scotland off the mark when he peeled out of a maul and stretched for the line – but came up just short. Instead, France got try number three when Thomas Ramos picked off a Finn Russell pass to Kyle Steyn and trotted home from 60-yards unchallenged.

It had been a whirlwind first 20 minutes with three home tries and two red-cards.


Scotland really should have scored when Russell ghosted through midfield and the supporting Sione Tuipulotiu generated a quick recycle, but the passing between White, Pierre Schoeman and Jamie Ritchie was laboured allowing the French defence to get across and push van der Merwe into touch.

Scotland came close again when they rumbled a maul over the French line, but couldn’t get the ball to ground, but there was no sloppiness in the visiting attack a few minutes later when another powerful maul got them on the front foot before Russell sent Huw Jones under the posts.

Ramos kept the French side of the scoreboard ticking over with a 36th minute penalty, awarded against Matt Fagerson for hands in a ruck.


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Scotland really needed to score the first points of the second half and they did just that when Jones finished off a sweeping attack he’d earlier played a key role in with a lung-busting midfield break.

It took some great defensive work from White to stop Dumortier scoring in the corner – but France kept the pressure on, and Ramos kicked his second penalty of the afternoon.

Scotland kept plugging away and when Russell scurried over the line with 13 minutes to go, then nailed the touchline conversion, it reduced the deficit to just four points. But that was as close as they got. An overthrown line-out handed the initiative back to France  and a last-minute Gael Fickou try sealed the win and the bonus point for the hosts.


Teams –

France: T Ramos; D Penaud, G Fickou, Y Moefana, E Dumortier; R Ntamack (M Jalibert 68), A Dupont; C Baille (R Wardi 63), J Marchand (G Barlot 68), M Haouas, T Flament, P Willemse (R Taofifenua 53), A Jelonch (F Cros 6-14, 24), C Ollivon, G Alldritt (S Falatea 12).

Scotland: S Hogg; K Steyn (B Kinghorn 68), H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell, B White (A Price 57); P Schoeman (J Bhatti 63), G Turner (F Brown 63), Z Fagerson (W Nel 63), R Gray (S Skinner 70), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson (J Gray 6), M Fagerson ( J Dempsey 57).

Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)


Scorers –

France: Tries: Ntamack, Dumortier, Ramos Fickou; Con: Ramos 3; Pen: Ramos 2.

Scotland: Tries; Jones 2, Russell; Con: Russell 3.

Scoring sequence (France first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 17-0; 19-0; 19-5; 19-7; 22-7 (h-t) 22-12; 22-14; 25-14; 25-19; 25-21; 30-21; 32-21.

Red cards –

France: Haouas (11 mins)

Scotland: Gilchrist (6 mins)

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About David Barnes 3385 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Reminded me of the game v the All Blacks in November where we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

    As in that game i felt the small but appreciable ball carrying edge of the opposition eventually enabled them to hold on.

    But it was close.

    If Scotland play with intensity from the off I think they are capable of beating any team, really.

    And they are great to watch.

  2. Difficult game to arrive at a true perspective. It ebbed and flowed considerably. Many on these forums concentrating on the last 60 minutes and ignoring the first 20 as if that was some kind of aberration. However the game lasts from 0 to 80 minutes and the first 20 minutes were truly awful from a Scottish perspective. Not for the first time we started really slowly and paid the ultimate price. The reality is that despite our considerable efforts for the remaining 60 minutes the game was over as a result in the first 20.This needs to be addressed. There was much to be positive about and you won’t find many occasions when France spend the bulk of a half defending in Paris. But ultimately we still coughed up the same errors which have plagued us in the past and resulted in our defeat. As many have said there is no disgrace in getting beaten by France but if we want to be accepted at the big boys table we need to win these types of games. Looking forward to the Ireland game and keeping it tight for the first 20.

  3. How .any penalties in your own 22 constitute a yellow ? Just asking because by my count it must be more than 6. Ref bottled it.

  4. Great game. Bonkers first 20 minutes. This was a very good French team at home where they havent lost since we last beat them. We are so close to being a really great team. Its just little moments of inaccuracy like the lineout at the end that are stopping us fully realising the potential. That was the best collective forwards performance I can remember. Ritchie and Matt Fagerson were everywhere. Fagerson is still massively underrated but probably pound for pound the best 8 in the world at the moment.

  5. I should be a bit down , but I think that was a great performance from Scotland, so I’m just a bit disappointed. We should or could have won just a couple of near misses. The damage was the early 19 points, tough to come back from that. That said we coped well with the red card, though I might have brought on skinner rather than Grey for his bulk. Great game from Jones yet again, Turner put himself about and Finn was just Finn expectations rose every time he got the ball. Just a pity about the lost bonus point.

  6. Brilliant entertainment, can’t do anything other than applaud both teams for the best game of an astounding 6 nations so far. Others may carp but I think every Scot is in credit this tournament and although there were mistakes today, someone always has to lose even when better is deserved.
    2 points worth mentioning, Gilchrist was a microsecond or 2 too late, Fagerson’s tackle having pushed Jelonch more directly into his path. Unfortunately that doesn’t count as mitigation. The young Georgian ref has, I would guess for political expediency, been promoted beyond his current ability, witness his ridiculous assessment of the Haouss red. “I’m not seeing a high degree of danger” really? Specsavers for you, I’d say.

    • Thought I was the only one to hear “I’m not seeing a high degree of danger “. Ridiculous comment from the referee and the more experienced AR bailed him out of making a very poor decision if that had been yellow and not red.

      • Correct but the right decision was reached. Tommy Bowe did an excellent article on red cards on the BBC web site. Basically red cards can ruin a game and it’s putting the referees under huge pressure. His solution was to red card the player, he could be replaced by another player after 10 but the crucial part was the red carded player was to receive a significant ban. 6/8/10 weeks. This way the player suffered but the game didn’t. Bans of 2/3/4 weeks are nothing to a player who can often be rested for a couple of games these days.

      • Ian, you are absolutely right, red cards do spoil games. Tommy Bowe’s solution has definite merit, I believe something along those lines is going to be trialled in the SH. However that doesn’t absolve the referee of his responsibility and I stand by my criticism of his performance.

      • That’s why we have a refereeing team Pirate4. It’s a bit like having a teammate on the field who covers for you when you make a mistake.

  7. Overall, we played well and have it a good lash. Just little failures in execution made us come up just short. C’est la vie.

    We still need two great performances to end the championship on a high, whatever the result against Ireland.

    No idea where this leaves Townsend, feels like we are playing the best rugby for years and maybe it’s better to keep the band together and give a Russell-led Scotland a few more cracks at a grand slam?

    • If we can afford GT and he’s keen to do another 4 years then we should go for him. It takes time for coaches to settle in and learn, I worked under the great Jim Telfer and success with Jim was far from instant, he got better as the years went on.

      • Fair point Iain. Feels like Gregor has taken seven years to work the job out but this season he has the team playing for each other and taking measured risks. Finally backing Finna and Huw Jones seem a crucial

    • I can’t see how the Fickou try was given. The player did not ground the ball. Johnny Gray’s hand also stops the ball from being grounded and then the ball is peeled away. A bonus point therefore goes a miss.

  8. Great game, playing the 2nd best team in the world away from home and if we’d have won no one would have complained. Small margins, a miscommunication in a lineout could well have cost us victory.
    We are against it physically against some of the top teams but the way we play with pace and intelligence is a joy to watch.
    Probably have the 2 worst teams in our WC group as far a Scotland is concerned.
    Another performance like that against Ireland and a win against Italy shows real progress which started in Argentina. 🐻

  9. Yes we were 19-0 down, and credit overall for a great Scottish fight back, but & a big but;

    What on earth possessed the coaches to take off White & bring on Price?
    White was brilliant (I’m an ex. no.9), his service was super quick, his defensive work just brilliant, and still buzzing when he was pulled off. Ali Price came on, please watch the highlights and his defensive duties, just poor, especially France’s winning try, he was lost in no man’s land, and I mean lost. That for me was part of the game changing for Scotland, again just watch the change in impetus when we are already chasing the game, Ali Price is not the scrum -half who will keep tiring defences guessing?

    It’s fine margins, Scotland left at least three tries out their, and could’ve easily won it.

    Well done Scotland for serving up some scintillating expansive exciting rugger.

    What a contrast to the dross that was the Wales v England game.

    • Yes I though substitutions key . Personally I would have retained Richie and substituted Jonny . Richie key in lineout . Keeping Turner on as well but to be fair Brown is a real boost in scum . Agree about tackling of Price but Jonny Gray was also ponderous at getting up and into defensive line.

      Original selection also a bit strange I have watched Watson every game he played this year and he has far from best – I would have retained Crosbie more size against big french forwards . Interestingly saw some statistics re number of penalties Jamie Richie gives away in match – highest by some margin in Scottish forwards in defence and attack . Thought the penalty at end of match was a bit harsh as release was minimal not “clear “ . Our penalty count overall not good and cost us .

      The start was always going to be key and that meant do what ever you can to keep them out of our 22 no risks . Unfortunately errors in possession meant that plan did not occur.

      Some fine performances and moments just was not our day – if we keep up this progression might just get to place were we do not need bit of luck . Well done Scotland .

    • I saw Price shoot out for the last try and wondered what he was up to. But there was a massive overlap he was trying to cut off. I think that was always going to be a try.

  10. Ugh a tough one to swallow given how well we played. I thought the referee looked lost at times refereeing the breakdown and the scrum, France blowing through the ruck onto our scrum half or base on at least two occasions unpunished.

    I always felt that it was unlikely we would be able to be as efficient with attacking opportunities as we had been in the first two rounds and so it proved, but France were flooding the front line defence, a sure fire sign thst there was respect for our attack.

    Ireland won’t be taking the trip to Edinburgh lightly. I’d absolutely love these players to knock them and their smug media corps off their perch. That’s a tough ask but this group are capable.

    Question – Should we change the back row again? Is Ritchie playing as well as he needs to be given that he is Captain? Could Crosbie make a difference?

  11. A points victory for France, a moral one for Scotland. If if and ands were pots and pans eh! The Six Nations is by no means done and dusted, with two home games to come and surely no one fancying their chances against us these days. Proud of this Scotland team, full of running and aggression. They gave it a square go and bossed huge slices of the game despite going 19-0 down early doors. Gilchrist should know better however, for to lead with the shoulder into the head was an act of folly not worthy of his great experience. Fortunately it was balanced by the wee French lad who got sent off for the second time against us. He is the gift that keeps on giving. My second serious peeve – the final trick turned on that shocking throw by Brown, who has been unable to hit a barn door all his professional career, most notably in high pressure, high stakes situations. Cost us the 2015 World Cup quarter final at the death and this time a serious shot at the Grand Slam. We have much more reliable players in that position, Cherry and Ashman to name but two. One of Townsend’s very few selectorial errors in this campaign, which otherwise has been extremely well judged.

  12. Apart from 100% for Scotland, I have no bias, so my tuppence worth on the Gilchrist red is there was mitigation in the form of the Fagerson tackle changing the French player’s position when Gilchrist was already committed to the tackle himself. If not for that, he would not have made contact with the head. That the referee was reluctant to give a red card to the far more definite recklessness minutes later suggested to me he’d had second thoughts and his fearful expression on another issue not long afterwards confirmed doubt in his own judgement.

    With regard to the rest of a mess of a game, yes, we could have won it, whether we should have is another matter. Quite why Fraser Brown missed that throw by such a margin, only he knows, but that was extremely costly in possession and territory. There were elements of farce in some of our play and the interception try was unlucky, as Russell’s view of the intercepting player was obscured. Both teams defended very well.

    We never used to visit Paris having good reason to think we could win, or monstering their scrum. What an effort!

    Back to my beer.

    • I think you make a good point about the Referees hesitance, overall I thought he was a bit out of his depth.

      • I have seen this referee a number of times and in my opinion he has looked very good. Other than his initial view on the Gilchrist red card I didn’t think he had a bad game at all.

  13. Taking off Richie Gray and letting Brown anywhere near the side did for us. Price was ponderous at the ruck and left a gaping hole for Fickou to run through. Sorry, but both players are past it. Ashman and Horne better (and more deserving options).
    Can be proud of the fightback, but a lot of self-inflicted problems.

    • I’d expect better of a Herald. Gray and Turner had run themselves into the ground and to be fair Brown been good coming of the Bench recently.
      Stick to surfing.

  14. I reckon it showed we have definitely made the step up…… disappointed in losing in France is a good thing…
    Darcy Graham’s absence a factor.
    We were always in with a shout and played some lovely stuff.
    Wee bit impatient in parts but can look towards Ireland with confidence.

    • It’s a shame Graham isn’t available. But for such an open game, it was a bit weird that neither winger saw much of the ball.

  15. I’m compelled to get to the comments section before the Traquir gives way to Tomintoul Tláth, this weeks Malt of choice. How many times are we going to give an opposition 19 points of a start, before we start to perform?
    There were moments in that game when not only did we take them to the cleaners but we paid for their Laundry as well, in many respects they were shown up at home and it is just a pity that we didn’t start how we finished, in the last three quarters of the game we did them 13-21 plus we had two tries wiped off for failing to touch down and possibly two or three with wrong decisions.
    Our lad said that the next game against Ireland is the important one because it sets a marker for the WC group and gives us the opportunity to set down a marker, we had a bit of a discussion about that because I said stuffing the French in Paris would have been a better way into the Ireland fixture in two weeks time never mind a marker for the World Cup group.
    There were so many occasions in the game when we were undisputedly the better side ‘supposedly’ only to resort to our old default and hand the advantage back to our opposition. Mind you in the past we would not have had the character to get back in the game, in many respects but for our own faults we would have been going up the Rankings.
    We have to believe that we can take on the best and beat them, its almost there, honestly, almost there.
    I haven’t mentioned Gilchrist, it was clumsy and that’s the end of it, the Gray’s did well and perhaps that should be the starting pair against Ireland.
    How can you be so proud of the Lads performance and yet so desolate about it? Support Scotland and you will find out, but I really believe that if we keep this up we can get out of our group and be the Nation again that stood against them.
    Moments in the game I could not understand, the Referees apparent inability to realise that it was Groundhog Day for the French prop, I felt that correctly he was led in the correct decision, how he seemed to think it was only Yellow thinking ‘dare I hand out 2 Reds in 5 minutes’ YES, in some respects he seemed to be a bit out of his depth.
    Huw Jones, superb, Finn, well Finn was Finn, have we got Darcy back for the next game? That’s what is good at the moment, pressure on players that have performed well. Could missing out on that loosing bonus point at the last knockings be the difference to our 6Nations?
    I’m heading for the Tomintoul and taking the good points to heart and hoping for a Triple Crown: why not!

  16. If you had been offered france ahead by 3 going into the last 5 minutes and Scotland playing outstanding rugby and having fought back from being 19-0 down, you’d have bitten that hand off. France came out fired up and got the early tries and the intercept. After that it was all Scotland and France defending like demons. Good to see this wasn’t a one off performance. We played a bit better than against England or Wales. France don’t lose often especially at home. We are still second have 2 home games and absolutely everything to play for. Maybe not give ireland a 3 try start though.

  17. Thought Gilchrist got away with a similar tackle straight from KO. He’ll be gutted though – very out of character.

    Strangely I thought the comeback was a possibility even at 19-0. Brave by Townsend to sacrifice a forward especially when France decided to go with a full pack. And that last France penalty could easily have gone to us instead – if there was a release it was measured in milliseconds.

    Enjoyable game, just a few costly errors which we can’t afford against a team like France.

  18. What a great game of rugby compared to the dross in Cardiff yesterday.

    Feels like we’ve been here before – played well but lost. We actually played very well but if we want to beat the best we need to be a bit more accurate at key moments and that’s where we lost it. There were a few key moments which could have made the difference and I’m not thinking about the red cards – The Russel interception, Fagerson losing control going for the line, the messed up line out with 5 min to go which ultimately led to France scoring.

    So some great performances and great attacking rugby with Jones and White outstanding. The forwards stood up well in the scrum and the Grays and Turner were good. Can we just find that extra level of accuracy because we’ll need it in 2 weeks time to beat Ireland.

  19. Scotland showed a lot of character to stay in the game. It’s as if the French crowd knew before half time that it’s nowhere near over. Massive relief for them at the end.

    Lots of ‘what ifs’ but still a very credible result away from home.

  20. That Fraser Brown overthrow is gonna keep me up all night!

    Even though we lost (by 11) I can’t remember a more dominant performance in Paris from us than that. We just weren’t as clinical as the last two games.

    Zander and Duhan both over the line, but not quite there and then the interception.

    Defeated but confident for Ireland – bring ‘em on!

    • I’d need to watch it again but I think it was a communication error or timing error rather than an over throw

      • The receiving player was high in the air before Brown threw the ball in and already on his way down when Brown hurled it straight over his outstretched hands. That’s how I remember it anyway. Rushed and uncoordinated.

  21. Scotland showed a lot of character to stay in the game. It’s as if the French crowd knew before half time that it’s nowhere near over. Massive relief for them at the end.

    Lots of ‘what ifs’ but still a very credible result away from home.

  22. I disagree with the headline. We got ourselves in a position to win this game. A wee bit inaccurate after that, a couple of 50/50 decisions going wrong way, French defence amazing but…. We should have won.

    • Yeah defo one that got away. The overthrow was a horror moment. Honestly thought we were going to turn it around. Brown will obviously take the stick but could we have kept Ritchie Gray on? He’s been such a strong line out option and it might have made life easier for Brown. If I was being totally honest I thought the French struggled with the expectation and are a wee bit below last season’s standards. Huw Jones was utterly world class. Can’t believe there was even a debate about him n Harris. Do think we need to start Horne n Kinghorn to have any chance against Ireland.

      • Wasn’t really an overthrow for me.

        The lift for Ritchie is all wrong. Badly timed and not vertical enough.

        Hookers often cop it for bad lineouts but it is rarely (entirely) their fault.


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