Scotland beat a 14-man France 28-17 in Edinburgh to throw the Six Nations title race wide open, writes JON CARDINELLI.
France came into this clash on the back of convincing wins against England, Italy and Wales. They were expected to beat Scotland on Sunday and head into their final game against Ireland with a great chance of claiming the Grand Slam.
An ill-disciplined showing at Murrayfield, however, has put paid to those ambitions. It may have put a dent in their Six Nations title hopes, too.
England and Ireland may well surpass them in the standings before the tournament is concluded. England hammered Wales at Twickehham on Saturday. Ireland’s fixture against Italy in Rome has been postponed to a later date due to the coronavirus concerns in Europe.
France battled to control their aggression from the outset. Flank Francois Cros was shown a yellow card in the fifth minute, and while the visitors did well to concede just three points in his absence, it was some time before they played themselves into a position of dominance.
Scrumhalf Antoine Dupont found wing Damian Penaud with a perfect cross-kick toward the end of the half, and replacement flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert added the extras. That score appeared to lift the spirits of the French.
Then Scotland applied the pressure and forced the visitors back onto their own goal-line. There was a fierce scrap after the whistle, and Mohamed Haouas punched Jamie Ritchie in the face.
The officials took their time to consider the evidence and decided that a red card was warranted. The tighthead prop was ejected and France were left with the significant challenge of playing the remaining 43 minutes with only 14 men.
Scotland struck twice in the short period before half-time. Adam Hastings slotted a penalty and then Sean Maitland slid over in the corner. The hosts went to the break with a 14-7 lead. Another try by Maitland after half-time put Scotland firmly in control.
As the game moved into the fourth quarter, Stuart McInally swooped on a loose ball and raced away to score. Scotland went 18 points clear to seal the win and leave France’s Grand Slam dreams in tatters.
Scotland – Tries: Sean Maitland (2), Stuart McInally. Conversions: Adam Hastings (2). Penalties: Hastings (3).
France – Tries: Damian Penaud, Charles Ollivon. Conversions: Matthieu Jalibert (2). Penalty: Jalibert.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg (c), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland. Subs: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 WP Nel, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 George Horne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Kyle Steyn.
France – 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand 1 Jefferson Poirot. Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Matthieu Jalibert, 23 Thomas Ramos.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images