Rugby Union / Five Nations' Championship: Scots tower but Lacroix finishes on high note

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THE French had announced that they wanted to win in style, while Jean-Francois Tordo said he wanted 15 minutes of folie with which to beat the Scots. In the end, though, it was neither style nor inspired madness which won the game. It was nothing less than a period of hard graft from the pack which brought the French their try in the 64th minute for their 12th successive home win against Scotland.

The Tricolores had come out full of good intentions. Too full, probably, as they proceeded to run the ball from all situations, passing it willy-nilly and knowing full well that the critical Parc des Princes crowd was ready to pounce on the slightest suggestion of negative play.

'We knew we ran the risk of being booed from the start, even if we waited until we had won the ball 20 times before trying an up- and-under,' Guy Laporte, the French manager, said.

Didier Camberabero, the object of virulent attacks from the media, admitted having been particularly affected: 'All this criticism was very much on our minds. Even it if was unconscious, we knew we had to go out there and please the crowd before doing anything else.'

Accordingly, the first half produced a frenzy of attack and counter-attack. Gary Armstrong repeatedly cut through the French defence and the Scots, thanks to tireless efforts from Derek Turnbull and Iain Morrison, tackled tenaciously. Indeed, for the first 40 minutes the Scots had France in all sorts of bother. 'We just did well to keep them out,' Pierre Berbizier, the French coach, said.

Scotland had the territorial advantage in the first period and their surprising success in the line- out deprived the French of any quality attacking ball, Doddie Weir, Andy Reed and Damian Cronin proving a handful for the French jumpers, who had been so successful against England at Twickenham.

'We have to pay homage to the Scots,' Berbizier said. 'They have three jumpers of a very high calibre and there is no dishonour in being dominated by players of this quality.'

By half-time, though, the scoring had been restricted to a penalty apiece from Camberabero and Gavin Hastings. 'At that stage, I thought we were in with a chance,' Hastings said. 'It was a good positive performance and we could have been ahead by six or nine points. But we have been in that position before in Paris, and the first half does not win the game.'

Scotland went close to taking the lead almost directly from the restart when Derek Stark was held up by France's stout defence within inches of scoring. 'For me, that was the turning point,' Tordo said. 'We were in deep trouble right on our own line, but we came out of it well. I could sense that my players were prepared to sacrifice themselves. It gave us a great boost and we started to take over the game.'

So it was back to the old forward drive, a little less folie, and a little more realism. First of all, though, there was a flash of brilliance from Jean-Baptiste Lafond which enabled France to go three points ahead.

The French full-back called for a mark just inside his 22. The Scots waited for him to kick for touch, but he tapped the ball to himself and passed to Laurent Cabannes. Ultimately, it was Cabannes who was held up within sight of the line. Scotland, though, were penalised in the ensuing ruck and Camberabero landed the penalty.

The French forwards then took the game to the Scots, who dropped away noticeably in the final quarter. Abdelatif Benazzi won a line-out, Marc Cecillon and Benazzi charged on, and Aubin Hueber received the ball with a gigantic overlap on the right. Camberabero then flicked a pass to Thierry Lacroix, who dived over for his first try in an international.

'Particularly satisfying,' is how Berbizier termed the victory. Tordo, meanwhile, had no hesitation in praising 'a great Scottish team. In my opinion they are a better team than the English. They are more complete, they are less stereotyped, more adventurous and most of all they are keen to progress. They should never be underestimated.'

France: Try Lacroix; Penalties Camberabero. Scotland: Penalty Hastings.

FRANCE: J-B Lafond (Begles); P Saint-Andre (Montferrand), T Lacroix (Dax), P Sella (Agen), P Hontas (Biarritz); D Camberabero (Beziers), A Hueber (Toulon); L Seigne (Merignac), J-F Tordo (Nice, capt), L Armary (Lourdes), O Roumat (Dax), A Benazzi (Agen), P Benetton (Agen), M Cecillon (Bourgoin), L Cabannes (Racing).

SCOTLAND: G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); A Stanger (Hawick), S Hastings (Watsonians), G Shiel (Melrose), D Stark (Boroughmuir); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); P Wright (Boroughmuir), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Burnell (London Scottish), A Reed (Bath), D Cronin (London Scottish), D Turnbull (Hawick), I Morrison (London Scottish), G Weir (Melrose).

Referee: D Bevan (Wales).

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