A Grand Slam fit for Princes

France 47 Scotland 20 Tries: Benazzi 26, Tries: Tait 40, 53 Leflamand 32 Pens: Shepherd 10, 30 Tournaire 69 Magne 75 Cons: Shepherd 40, 53 Pens: Lamaison 3, 13, 21, 42, 47, 58 Cons: Lamaison 26, 32, 69 Drop: Sadourny 40
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The Independent Online
It was a long time coming, but the Parc des Princes finally became the Parc de Triomphe yesterday as French rugby bade a Five Nations farewell to its home by glorying in the first Gallic Grand Slam ever secured there. Eighty seven years after the Championship first extended across La Manche, with an English victory at the Parc of old, the Dax band boomed, "La Marseillaise" echoed and the cockerel crowed. The French XV and the six replacements, all granted walk-on parts, took their places in the history books with appropriate record-breaking panache.

Abdel Benazzi led his side from the front, dipping his left shoulder to floor Rowen Shepherd as he charged to the first of four French tries, five minutes into the second quarter. It was a victory itself for brave Scotland that they repelled the invasion force for so long. It was to their eternal credit, too, that they fought back from 26-6 down a minute before half-time to temporary parity on the try-count after Alan Tait twice charged over the French line. Benazzi and his boys, however, finished their mission in style.

Olivier Magne, a blond bombshell Jean-Pierre Rives reincarnate, applied the coup de grace, touching down in the right corner with 10 minutes left after an irresistible sweeping move in which the entire French three-quarter line took the opportunity to display their considerable creative talents. Christophe Lamaison missed the conversion attempt, his only wayward effort in 10 kicks at goal. It was their highest points total against Scotland by a margin of 19.

It was evident that France would be unstoppable from the moment Olivier Merle charged on to the pitch, bowling over the unfortunate photographer standing in his path. The inevitable was 25 minutes in coming, France leading by three Lamaison penalties to one before Laurent Leflamand slipped the ball to Benazzi, who steamrollered Shepherd on his way to the line. The Scottish full-back and his colleagues were still recovering when the magnificent Magne, as mobile as a threequarter, broke clear in midfield and set up Leflamand for a try in the same corner six minutes later. When Jean-Luc Sadourny, who sparked that move, landed a drop goal in the penultimate minute before the break Scotland were 20 points adrift and staring humiliation in the face.

From the restart, however, Craig Chalmers hoisted a garryowen, Gregor Townsend collected and Tait charged over from close range. Shepherd's conversion made it 26-13 at the break and home fans had reason to be grateful for two more Lamaison penalties early in the second half before Tait's second in the 53rd minute.

It was lifted from the manual of the 13-man game, the one-time Widnes full-back taking a Chalmers pass at high speed and repeating his feat on his last appearance against France - two tries for Great Britain against the French rugby league team at Elland Road. He joined Keith Robertson in the record books, forming a select club of two Scots who have scored more than one try at the Parc.

But the Caledonian capitulation quickly followed. Chalmers departed to spend the night in hospital with concussion and possible neck damage after a high tackle by Stephane Glas which could prompt a request for disciplinary punishment. Then came the grand finale. The prop Franck Tournaire bludgeoned his way to a close-range try 10 minutes from time and Magne raised the rafters with his score five minutes later.

As Benazzi collected the Championship trophy and the patrons of the Parc stood for a 10-minute standing ovation, Jean-Claude Skrela and his coaching assistant Pierre Villepreux could bask in the glory of a hard-earned place in French sporting history. They took their squad into the Championship on the back of two try-less home defeats against South Africa and have triumphed with virtually a new team. Only five of those who lined up yesterday were in the losing side on the final day last year at the Arms Park. Twenty-seven players have been required for this season, the highest number since 1968 when Villepreux himself was among the 27 who featured in the first Gallic Grand Slam campaign.

All 27 of the fifth French Grand Slammers earned the laurels, and the champagne with which they were showered. It was probably a good thing that Benazzi, true to his Muslim faith, was on Perrier only. With a clear head this morning and a clear memory in store, the giant who led French rugby into the history books will be drinking in the celebrations for years to come.

France: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); L Leflamand (Bourgoin), C Lamaison (Brive), S Glas (Bourgoin), D Venditti (Brive); D Aucagne (Pau), G Accoceberry (Begles-Bordeaux); D Casadei (Brive), M Dal Maso (Agen), F Tournaire (Narbonne),O Merle (Montferrand), H Miorin (Toulouse), A Bennazi (Agen, capt), F Pelous, O Magne (both Dax). Replacements: R Castel (Beziers) for H Miorin, 49; J-L Jordana (Toulouse) for Tournaire 72; M de Rougemont (Toulon) for Dal Maso, 73; P Bondouy (Narbonne) for Leflamand, 74; U Mola (Dax) for Venditti, 74; P Carbonneau (Brive) for Accoceberry, 76.

Scotland: R Shepherd (Melrose); T Stanger (Hawick), A Tait (Newcastle), G Townsend (Northampton), K Logan (Wasps); C Chalmers, B Redpath (both Melrose); T Smith (Watsonians), G Ellis (Currie), M Stewart (Northampton), G Weir (Newcastle), A Reed (Wasps), R Wainwright (Watsonians, capt), P Walton (Newcastle), I Smith (Moseley). Replacements: D Cronin (Wasps) for Walton, 22; D Hodge (Watsonians) for Chalmers, 51; C Glasgow (Heriot's FP) for Tait, 62.

Referee: E Morrison (England).

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