Captain Greig Laidlaw contributed seven points as Scotland claimed a hard-fought 17-14 win over France in their World Cup warm-up at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Scotland were looking to make amends following last week’s disheartening 32-3 loss to Les Bleus in Nice. But for a large part of this contest, it looked as if they were headed for another defeat. The hosts, however, put up an admirable fight in the second half to turn the result into their favour.
There were definite improvements to Scotland’s game this week – none more so than defensively – compared to last week’s performance. But despite the result, coach Gregor Townsend will not be pleased with the lineout woes his charges experienced.
France struck an early blow when Penaud read play beautifully and intercepted on the halfway line to run in a try unopposed. Scotland’s talismatic captain Greig Laidlaw got his side on the board with a penalty when centre Sofiane Guitoune was penalised for streaking offside.
After the early excitement, the action fizzled out but the momentum was with the visitors and in 28th minute, a swift break from the halfway line by France led to inside centre Gael Fickou freeing up Penaud to go over the line for his and Les Bleus’ second try of the match. That seemed to spark Scotland into life and shortly after, Sean Maitland pulled a try back for the hosts to reduce the deficit to 14-10 at the break.
The second half was a slightly quieter affair, with both sides trying their utmost to break down the opposition’s defence. Scotland would eventually get the break they sought on the hour mark when Laidlaw set Chris Harris up to power over under the posts for a try to put them in the lead for the first time.
In a frenetic finish, France threw everything at Scotland as they went in search of a winning score, but the hosts’ defence stood firm even when Les Bleus were awarded a penalty in the last minute of the game. Scotland turned possession over and kicked the ball out to seal a confidence-boosting win.
Scotland – Tries: Sean Maitland, Chris Harris. Conversions: Greig Laidlaw (2). Penalty: Laidlaw.
France – Tries: Damian Penaud (2). Conversions: Camille Lopez (2).
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Willem Nel, 2 George Turner, 1 Gordon Reid.
Subs: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 John Barclay, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
France – 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Arthur Iturria, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Maxime Medard.
Photo: Scottish Rugby