France required a late try by winger Noa Nakaitaci to secure a 19-16 win over Scotland in a World Cup warm-up game in Paris on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The French had only lost to Scotland twice in the last 21 Tests between the two sides, but had to survive a real scare in Paris as the visitors produced a gutsy performance, which also saw them turn down a late opportunity to kick a penalty to draw the match.
France and Scotland came into the game on the back of impressive wins over England and Italy respectively, but both sides failed to find that sort of form in a penalty-riddled match that served as their final hit-out before the World Cup.
Scotland scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw and French flyhalf Frédéric Michalak traded a couple of penalties each during an ill-disciplined first 30 minutes with very few try-scoring opportunities.
The French were finally able to string together an accurate phase of play just before half-time, and although centre Wesley Fofana looked to have scored in the corner, the final pass was ruled to have gone forward.
In the last action of the half, Laidlaw slotted his third penalty to hand the Scots a narrow lead heading into the interval.
Michalak returned the favour when he drew the scores level just after half-time, while South African-born fullback Scott Spedding then struck an excellent long-distance penalty in the 55th minute to hand France the lead for the first time.
Then, against the run of play, winger Tommy Seymour scored an opportunistic try on the hour mark as Scotland moved into a 16-12 lead, which shocked the Paris crowd into silence.
France quickly upped the ante, though, and when Scotland No 8 David Denton was sent to the sin bin for the final 10 minutes of the match, France were able to strike the decisive blow as big Nakaitaci crashed over next to the posts.
France – Try: Noa Nakaitaci. Conversion: Morgan Parra. Penalties: Frédéric Michalak (3), Scott Spedding.
Scotland – Try: Tommy Seymour. Conversion: Greig Laidlaw. Penalties: Laidlaw (3).
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Subs: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Alexandre Dumoulin.
Scotland – 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Alasdair Strokosch, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Sean Lamont.
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP Photo