Stuart Hogg starred as Scotland clinched a 29-18 victory over France in Edinburgh on Sunday that saw England crowned Six Nations champions. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Take a bow, Scotland. This victory was their second of the Six Nations and enabled them to move up to third place on the standings. It was also their first win over France since 2006.
The Scots fully deserved the victory, having led for the better part of the final hour, with Hogg scoring one try, playing an integral part in another while also slotting a superb long-range penalty.
Leading 18-12 at half-time, Hogg edged Scotland further ahead with a 55m penalty soon after the restart, but France crept back into the match as scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud slotted two penalties of his own.
However, the decisive moment came with just over 10 minutes left to play as Scotland opted to kick a penalty to the corner, and after the ball was worked out to the left wing, Hogg produced a superb touch to flip the ball on to winger Tim Visser, who scored in the corner.
It enabled the hosts to move into a 26-18 lead, while captain Greig Laidlaw added one more penalty before the final whistle as Scotland were able to hold on for a result that Scottish fans will remember for some time.
Scotland suffered an early blow when flyhalf Finn Russell picked up an injury that forced him out of action, while to make matters worse, at the time he was receiving treatment on the field, France created space for captain Guilhem Guirado to go over for the opening try.
However, the hosts worked their way back into the contest and gradually began to gain the upper hand – particularly establishing ascendancy at scrum time – with Laidlaw slotting two penalties to edge Scotland in front.
There would be plenty more for the vociferous Murrayfield crowd to celebrate as first Hogg and then centre Duncan Taylor scored just after half an hour of play, suddenly sending Scotland into an 18-5 lead.
It looked like a lead they’d take into the break, but France hit back with the final play of the half as Gaël Fickou rounded off an important try after an impressive multi-phase buildup, which helped reduce the deficit to six points.
However, Scotland held their nerve in the second half to complete a memorable victory.
Scotland – Tries: Stuart Hogg, Duncan Taylor, Tim Visser. Conversion: Greig Laidlaw. Penalties: Laidlaw (4), Hogg.
France – Tries: Guilhem Guirado, Gaël Fickou. Conversion: Maxime Machenaud. Penalties: Machenaud (2).
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Sean Lamont.
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Virimi Vakatawa, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Wesley Fofana, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Sébastien Bézy, 22 Jules Plisson, Maxime Médard.
Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images