A field day for Dods

Scotland 19 France 14 Tries: Dods 8, 52 Try: Benazzi 23 Pens: Dods 17, 20, 76 Pens: Castaignede 14 Lacroix 66, 71
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UP IN mild, grey Murrayfield, far from England's unhealthy absorption in its own destiny, and whether Jack is still talking to Will, the real business of the Five Nations was being settled. Or so it seemed to us. Here, after all, were two unbeaten nations, either of them capable of winning the Grand Slam. And after 80 minutes of magnificently fast, courageous rugby, with never a pause for breath or reflection, it was the ebullient Scots who came through, with all their points supplied by the left wing, Michael Dods.

"Scotland should win the Grand Slam the way they played against us," the defeated French captain, Philippe Saint-Andre, said. "The Scots played very well and I was not surprised at the type of rugby they played - especially during the first 20 minutes when they put a lot of pressure on us. We made too many mistakes and just conceded too many penalties."

Scotland now take their campaign to the Arms Park in a fortnight's time, and defend the Calcutta Cup here two weeks later. In their present state of mind, everything is possible, and they could well become unbeaten champions before the other four contenders have finished their progamme.

Recently, the old allies have been sharing these spoils about equally. Verdicts have got closer and closer in recent times, with one side or other winning only in the dying minutes. Last season's Boys' Own try from Gavin Hastings gave Scotland their first win in Paris for 26 years. A riposte from Emile Ntamack put Scotland out of the World Cup four months later.

Yesterday's seething game was in the same tradition: first a powerful surge by the Scots in which Bryan Redpath and Gregor Townsend led the dance, and their flanker Rob Wainwright inserted himself in practically every move of attack and defence; then a spell when the French, who gradually worked their way back into the game. Finally, after they had managed to edge their way back from eight points down to only two points down, there was a period of acute suspense before the Scots could believe that victory was theirs.

Scotland had burst into the game in one of the most explosive starts that Murrayfield had ever seen. The Scots played the ball back upfield from the French kick-off with a move along the left which produced an offside penalty against France. Dods's kick from the touchline refused to bend in between the posts, but his moment was to follow.

First came a promising midfield charge by full-back Rowen Shepherd. Then there was a collective move out of defence, with Wainwright fielding a French kick ahead, a pass flicked behind bringing Shepherd again into the action, a strong run by Townsend and then from Redpath a low kick down the left of such elegant accuracy that the ball trickled over the French line just as Dods steamed up to touch down. Dods failed to convert his own try, but landed two penalties to one from the French centre Thomas Castaignede.

The French regrouped, though still a bit dazed at what had hit them and, after 20 minutes, their full-back, Jean-Luc Sadourny, broke through on the wing handing on to his captain, Saint-Andre, who was forced into touch five metres short. From the lineout the French pack produced a tight rolling maul which finally propelled Abdel Benazzi over for a try.

Dods had the chance to extend Scotland's 11-8 half-time lead with a penalty in the 49th minute but badly sliced the ball. He had scored only three of eight attempts, but, as before, failure in this area led to success in another. The second Scottish try was presaged by a run by Craig Joiner from his own half in which he moved with ludicrous ease through man-traps that lay waiting in his path but were never sprung. Only the hooker, Kevin McKenzie, was there in support and the attack petered out, but at least it brought another penalty which the Scots chose to run. When Townsend found his way blocked he worked a semi-scissors with Redpath. The scrum- half saw that the far flank was undefended and sent out a long pass to Dods on the wing. Although Dods made hearts lurch by twice juggling with the ball, he carried it safely across the line.

The Scots, eight points up, remained in control until, with 11 minutes to go, Lacroix landed a penalty that put them within a try of levelling. Two minutes later he kicked a second, to put his side within one score of the lead for which they had worked so determinedly. Those last nine minutes were agonising for the Scottish crowd, and only partly relieved when Dods managed a touchline penalty. They had seen victory snatched from them before and could hardly believe it when the final whistle blew.

Scotland: R Shepherd; C Joiner (both Melrose), S Hastings (Watsonians), I Jardine (Stirling County), M Dods; G Townsend (both Northampton), B Redpath (Melrose); D Hilton (Bath), H McKenzie (Stirling County), P Wright (Boroughmuir), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP), G Weir (Melrose), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool, capt), I Smith (Gloucester), E Peters (Bath).

France: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); E Ntamack (Toulouse), A Penaud (Brive), T Castaignede (Toulouse), P Saint Andre (Montferrand, capt); T Lacroix (Dax), P Carbonneau (Toulouse), M Perie (Toulon), J-M Gonzales (Bayonne), C Califano (Toulouse), O Merle (Montferrand), O Roumat (Dax), A Benazzi (Agen), L Cabanne (Racing), F Pelous (Dax).

Referee: C Thomas (Wales).

Wainwright's heroes, page 30