Scotland v France: Sean Maitland double dashes visitors’ Grand Slam dream

Stuart McInally adds third try as visitors pay price for indiscipline

Adam Hastings
Adam Hastings is tackled by Grégory Alldritt. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Scotland 28

France 17

STUART BATHGATE @ Murrayfield

SCOTLAND dashed France’s hopes of a first Grand Slam in a decade with an impressive performance that mixed solidity in defence with more than a dash of adventure in attack. The French did not help themselves with an indisciplined display in which they had Francois Cros sinbinned early on and Mohamed Haouas sent off before half-time, but Gregor Townsend’s side nonetheless deserve ample credit for exploiting that indiscipline with calm intelligence. 

Sean Maitland scored a try either side of half-time to put the home team in control, and Stuart McInally came off the bench to make sure of the win late in the second half. Winning in Wales on Saturday after a six-day turnaround will still be a tall order, but Scotland will at least travel there in a very positive frame of mind.

France were at their full complement for less than half an hour, as that yellow card for Cros was followed by the red for Haouas. Romain Ntamack’s game ended in the first half too after he took a head knock, and while Antoine Dupont was the most creative player on the pitch, he could not do enough on his own to revive the prospects of a team whose self-belief steadily deserted them over the course of the game. 


Premiership talking points from Saturday 7th March

Edinburgh sign South African teenage centre Jordan Venter

Close but no cigar for Scotland Under-20s against France


The result means France stay level on points at the top of the table with England, and throws the outcome of the Championship wide open with one round of games to play.

France had had to make a late change to their bench, bringing Toulouse hooker Peato Mauvaka in for Camille Chat, who injured himself during the warm-up. That change may not have had disrupted them, but those two others early in the game did: the loss of  Cros to the sinbin for a dangerous tackle on Grant Gilchrist, and the departure of Ntamack after failing an HIA. Then worse followed for them close to half-time, when Haouas was sent off for punching Jamie Ritchie.

Ntamack had missed the first scoring chance of the game with a long-range penalty attempt, but otherwise had had no time to get into his stride before he sustained the head knock when following up his own spill with a tackle on Sam Johnson. For his part, Cros was unfortunate to be singled out for his tackle on Gilchrist, as it was Paul Willemse who came in second and appeared to tip up the Scots lock.

A man down at the first scrum, the French were penalised for not driving straight, and Adam Hastings opened the scoring with a simple effort from 25 metres. Hastings added another, longer effort near the midway point in the half, further discomfiting France, who continued to look only sporadically dangerous.

That changed, however, in the closing ten minutes of the half. A break down the left flank by Fickou was halted by the Scots defence, but only at the expense of throwing too many men into the breakdown. When the ball came back, a moment of inspiration from Antoine Dupont created the first try of the game, as the scrum-half’s perfectly-weighed punt was collected and touched down in the right corner by Damian Penaud. Mathieu Jalibert, Ntamack’s replacement, converted from the touchline to give his team the lead. 

Scotland tried to counter immediately, but their momentum was halted when a brawl involving several players from both sides broke out close to the French posts. Haouas’ offence was the most blatant – at least after several reviews of the incident – and he was sent off for the right hook on Ritchie. 

Another penalty in front of the posts produced another three points for Hastings and Scotland, then in the last play of the half Maitland added a try. Gilchrist made the initial opening as the French defence was stretched to breaking point, Stuart Hogg took the attack on, then Johnson put Maitland in at the right corner. Hastings missed the conversion, but a 14-7 half-time lead against 14 men was an excellent position for the home team to be in. 

That became 21-7 five minutes into the second half, with Maitland again touching down and Hastings converting. Hogg was the instigator this time, breaking from midfield after Hamish Watson had turned over a French attack, and some slick passing involving Chris Harris and Ali Price ended up with Johnson again giving the winger the space he needed to score.  

France’s frustration was increasingly evident, and while they had little option but to try to speed up the game, they undid their own efforts by attempting to force openings too soon. Anthony Boutier came close to a breakthrough with nearly an hour on the clock, but after being halted in the tackle less than 10 metres from the Scots line he was unable to offload to a team-mate.

The arrival of the rain made handling trickier and another France attack was stopped just metres short, but a Jalibert penalty took them into double figures and revived their hopes of a late recovery. 

Well, revived them for a couple of minutes, until Stuart McInally, just off the bench, scored from a lineout. McInally threw in poorly, but the ball bounced off a French lock, allowing the hooker to collect and race clear from 20 metres out. Hastings converted, and at 28-10 down France realised the game was up.

Captain Charles Ollivon got a score back five minutes from time, with Jalibert converting. Another try would have produced a losing bonus point and given France the edge going into Saturday’s final round of fixtures, but they did not have the time to mount another attack.

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Teams –

Scotland: S Hogg (captain); S Maitland (K Steyn 67), C Harris, S Johnson (D Weir 78), B Kinghorn; A Hastings, A Price (G Horne 60); R Sutherland (A Dell 59), F Brown (S McInally 59), Z Fagerson (W Nel 67), S Cummings, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, N Haining (M Bradbury 59).

France: A Bouthier; D Penaud (D Cretin 59), V Vakatawa, A Vincent, G Fickou; R Ntamack (M Jalibert 8), A Dupont (B Serin 77); J Poirot (J Gros 50), J Marchand (P Mauvaka 65), M Haouas, B Le Roux, P Willemse (D Bamba 48), F Cros (R Taofifenua 48), G Alldritt, C Ollivon (captain). 

Referee: P Williams (New Zealand).

Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Maitland 2, McInally. Cons: Hastings 2. Pens: Hastings 3.

France: Tries: Penaud, Olliver. Cons: Jalibert 2. Pen: Jalibert.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 3-0, 6-0, 6-5, 6-7, 9-7, 14-7 half-time, 19-7, 21-7, 21-10, 26-10, 28-10, 28-15, 28-17.

Yellow card: France: Cros 5.

Red card: France: Haouas 37.

Attendance: tba.

 

 


Close but no cigar for Scotland Under-20s against France

About Stuart Bathgate 1393 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

7 Comments

  1. I want to re address what I said above, where i said it changed the likely outcome of the game, as badly worded. The incedent of the red card didn’t help the french teams chances in the game, which I think would have been a Scottish win regardless of sending off. The whole incedent was dissappointing.

  2. Haining has been cited for eye-poking, according to French paper L’Equipe. That could mean a year out.
    I feel sorry for Weir. He came on with 2 minutes to go (? or thereabouts). Townsend taking the Mickey.
    A good game for Scotland all round. I’m pleased my prediction was wrong! However, the loss of Ntamack took away the inspiration. more than did the yellow and red.
    Line-outs need to be made to work. They have been so bad. It is barely rocket science. Maybe get the winger to throw in, anybody who can actually throw. Do they practice at all? Tackle low, around the hips/legs area. There is a good chance that will nullify the off-load. It also brings the carrier to a sudden stop. Current fashion for tackling around the chest to stop the offload allows the ball carrier to make another 10 metres. This allows his side to catch up and win the ruck.
    Wales will be a tougher nut to crack.

  3. Delighted to be proved wrong by the team. I had a it down as a poor day at the office based upon the French momentum and our penchant for unforced errors. However, that was an 80 minute performance they should be proud of.

    Flankers were unreal, Maitland was dynamic, i thought Hastings got his mojo back a little after the last game, and Harris had a belter. It was great to see Steyn get his first full cap.

    Overall, happy with that. But we have Wales next week who are coming off the back of a defeat, and are way more likely to take it out on us.

  4. Good win today and good performance.
    Was definitely a day for travelling in hope rather than expectation.
    Penalty count killed France.

  5. Good effort from the team collectively, but Wales will not be so naive as an emerging French XV.

    Ps. With regard to the Red Card I suppose if you are going to clout somebody [as in the old days] make sure they don’t get up. As was related to me by Big Mike from Bridgend who played for Tondu recalling playing in one of those ‘Valley’ fixtures down in Wales having had a smack from his opposition 2nd row, ‘If you can’t do better than that, don’t bother next time’.

  6. Brilliant result. Well done Toonie and the players. Onto Cardiff with the same approach.

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