SEAN LINEEN has challenged his Scotland Under-20 team to become more clinical after creating a number of promising opportunities against France last [Friday] night but failing to convert pressure into points. For the second week on the trot, the Scottish pack – and particularly their scrum – impressed, but three tries in the final 15 minutes gave France a fairly comfortable win in the end.
Playing in front of a bumper crowd at Stade des Alpes in Grenoble, the hosts bounced back after a heavy 59-17 defeat against England to outscore the young Scots by five tries to one.
The result leaves the Lineen’s boys rooted to the bottom of the Under-20 Six Nations table, but the head coach reckons that his side have shown enough in their opening two matches [they lost 19-20 to Ireland seven days earlier] to suggest that better days lie ahead. Their next outing is against Wales at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld in two weeks’ time.
“It was a good first-half for us – 10-3 away from home against France. The forward pack were outstanding, especially at scrum-time where we hit them hard, and I think we managed to get into their 22 on a dozen of occasions but we just couldn’t convert,” said Lineen.
“We tried a couple of different things, but couldn’t get over the line. We made a number of basic errors under a little bit of pressure and let them off the hook– it’s the second week that has happened.”
“This is a new group of players, and they’re all learning very quickly. We’re working hard to get them up to speed and they will get better as a team and as individuals. We’ve just got to keep building and it will come,” he continued
“It’s a massive learning for this group. Everyone gave it their everything, but we’ve got to look at getting across the whitewash. At times our defence was good and at others we were very narrow, which cost us against the French who are heads-up players and had the ability to pick us off.”
“For a lot of guys, this was there first experience in-front of a big crowd – a loud support of over 15,000 – and that’s a massive step-up.”
“Ahead of Wales, we need to work on our basic skills and get our decision-making in order. We’ll meet next week, get ours heads together and look at how we can get better.”
Scotland made the livelier start, and winger Darcy Graham made good ground up the touchline with a typically elusive break, and full-back Stafford McDowall also showed up well – but they could not make the breakthrough and were restricted to one penalty from stand-off Conor Eastgate, who had been promoted from the bench into yhe starting fifteen in place of Josh Henderson, who was ill.
It took until the half hour mark before the hosts managed to get a foothold in the game, but when they did manage to get their hands on some decent possession they showed how deadly they can be. Stand-off Romain N’Tamack picked out winger Faraj Fartass with a clever cross-field kick, and a few phases later lock Mickaël Capelli muscled over.
N’Tamack converted and added a long-range penalty to give his side a seven point lead at the break, then the hosts grabbed an excellent score frearly in the second half.
Scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud started the move by running the ball out of his own 22, fed Fartass outside him, who then linked back inside for Couilloud to finish the move he had started.
Scotland battled back, and after centre Craig Pringle had a try denied by the TMO for a foot in touch, hooker Fraser Renwick did manage to get the ball down from an excellent driven line-out.
Scotland were back to just seven points behind, but France upped the tempo in the final quarter. Fartass broke from just inside his own half and had the pace to beat three men on his way to dotting down in the corner.
The bonus point was secured with seven minute to go when replacement scrum-half Arthur Retière showed his sniping skills to cross near the posts, and he did the same again on the other side with the final play of the game to seal the win.
France: R Buros; F Fartass, N Decron, T Dachary, W Iraguha; R N’Tamack, B Couilloud; L Aouf, E Fourcade, T Laclayat, F Verhaeghe, M Capelli, B Pesenti, K Bendjaballah, C Francoz. Subs: K Tougne, F Dufour, G Colombe, A Roumat, S Tolofua, A Retiere, T Darmon, T Millet.
Scotland: S McDowall; R Nairn, C Pringle, C Hutchison, D Graham; C Eastgate, A Simmers; G Thornton, F Renwick, A Nicol, A Craig, C Hunter-Hill, B Flockhart, L Crosbie, T Dod. Subs: R Smith, D Winning, F Bradbury, H Bain, J Ure, C Shiel, R Kerr, R McCann.
France: Tries: Capelli, Couilloud, Fartass, Retiere 2; Cons: N’Tamack, Darmon 3; Pen: N’Tamack.
Scotland: Try: Renwick; Pen: Eastgate.
Image courtesy: RBS 6 Nations