SCOTLAND suffered their 12th defeat in a row in all competitions, and their third in this year’s – TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaign – as they were outclassed at Stade de la Rabine in Vannes. France ran rampant against a visiting side who failed to conjure up anything that challenged the hosts.
Despite the return of Jade Konkel-Roberts and Lisa Thomson, who was making her 50th appearance, Scotland could not breach the French defence. However, head coach Bryan Easson continued to focus on the positives in the wake of the heavy defeat.
“For the first 35 minutes I thought we played and we were in the game with the third-best team in the world,” he said. “We are disappointed, don’t get me wrong.
“I’m sitting here looking at how we have played and we are disappointed not to win the game, but we as a group here are going to continue to look at the positives. We will also look at the things we can work on to get us in the right place for next week’s game.
“Professionalism doesn’t take a hold overnight; we are showing progress [and] we are happy with some of the progress. Look, we want to win games, we are disappointed not to win these games but to compare us against England and France, I don’t think we can, yet.
“Undoubtably we’ve lost a game, we’re in the business to win games and that’s what we will continue to work on. We will be working really hard over the next couple of weeks, not necessarily on the training field because three games on the bounce for a country the size of Scotland is a tough shift.”
The Scots were awarded an early reprieve as an offload from Pauline Bourdon to a marauding Charlotte Escudero was ruled forward, chalking off the opening score.
With the welcome return of Thomson to the centre partnership, Scotland were keen to explore attacks through the air. But France are not a team to be bullied in the aerial battle and a sharp offload to Melissande Llorens set up a simple two-on-one down on the left and Bourdon coasted untouched over the Scottish line to open the scoring.
After France turned possession over in midfield, Bourdon put boot to ball and Caroline Boujard tried to run over the top of Coreen Grant but the Saracens winger wrestled the Frenchwoman into touch. The Scots lost the ensuing lin-out and their defence eventually cracked.
After Jessy Trémoulière was denied a try at close range, chaos erupted as a loose ball was kicked wide into open space. Liz Musgrove was in the unenviable position of racing two of the French back three to touch the ball down over the line, a race she lost to Llorens who was awarded the try after a lengthy TMO deliberation.
The French marched back up to within five metres of the Scottish line and a beautiful pass from Bourdon to Boulard out wide took advantage of Scotland, who were caught unaware of the overlap. Trémoulière’s conversion completed the first-half scoring.
Upon their return to the field, France scored six tries in half an hour and secured the bonus point less than five minutes after play restarted.
The French backs put on a masterclass in offloading deep in the Scottish 22 as Gabrielle Vernier’s one-handed pass barely touched the fingers of Marine Menager before finding Boulard who ran over for her second of the afternoon.
Llorens soon found herself in open space and Chloe Rollie brought down the winger inches short of another try. But that merely delayed the inevitable as the ball popped up into the hands of Gaëlle Hermet who scored.
Boulard would go on to secure her hat-trick and further tries would come from Menager, set up by her twin sister Romane, Vernier, and replacement Maëlle Filopon.
After being found out by the French and failing to put up any points, Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm refused to let her teammates’ heads drop.
“My message in the circle after the game was ‘we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves’,” she said. “We competed with the third best team in the world for 40 minutes, we need to look at why we didn’t compete in the second half but we can take huge positives from the fact we did compete. We want to come out next week and we want to get a result so we don’t have time to dwell too much on that [French loss], we need to look forward.”
Scotland’s next game is against Italy on Saturday at the DAM Health Stadium. Emma Orr, who was stretchered off late in the game with a head injury, is definitely out of that match even though she was “up and about” in the dressing room after the game according to Easson. Fran McGhie, taken off early with an ankle injury, also looks set to miss out on the Italian match, but as things stand has a chance of coming back for the final fixture of the campaign, at home to Ireland on Saturday week.
France: E Boulard; C Boujard (M Filopon 62), M Menager, G Vernier, M Llorens; J Trémoulière (C Arbez 62), P Bourdon (A Chambon 55); Y Brosseau (A Mwayembe 57), A Sochat (E Riffonneau 65), A Khalfaoui (R Bernadou 55), M Picut, A Forlani (captain, R Menager 51), A Berthoumieu (J Annery 65), G Hermet, C Escudero.
Scotland: C Rollie; E Musgrove, E Orr, L Thomson, F McGhie (C Grant 8); H Nelson (M Smith 66), C Mattinson (M McDonald 57); L Bartlett (A Young 74), L Skeldon (J Rettie 63), C Belisle (E Clarke 57), L O’Donnell (E Donaldson 55), L McMillan, R Malcolm (captain), E Gallagher, J Konkel-Roberts (R McLachlan 46).
Referee: Lauren Jenner (New Zealand)
France: Tries: Bourdon, Llorens, Hermet, Vernier, Boulard 3, Menager, Filopon Cons: Trémoulière 4, Arbez.
Scotland: No scorers
Scoring sequence (France first): 5-0; 10-0; 15-0; 17-0 (h-t) 22-0; 27-0; 29-0; 34-0; 36-0; 41-0; 43-0; 48-0; 53-0; 55-0.