Tries: Dominici, Juillet Tries: M Leslie 2, Tait 2
Cons: Aucagne 2 Cons: Logan 4
Pen: Aucagne Pen: Logan
Half-time: 22-33 Attendance: 80,000
C'EST MAGNIFIQUE mais ce n'est pas le rugby. There were times during the unrelenting speed and dizzy movement of this incredible contest that we wondered whether we had landed at Euro Disney instead of Stade de France.
Twenty-seven minutes gone, 52 points scored and 33 of them to Scotland who with breath-taking speed and skill had torn the French to shreds. They had scored five tries, two by Martin Leslie, two from Alan Tait and one from Gregor Townsend who, in doing so, had joined that select band of players who have scored tries in all four championship matches. There could be no more fitting end to Jim Telfer's career as Scottish coach. In his own uniquely forthright manner he has succeeded in making a little go a very long way and yesterday Scotland moved into areas of skill and artistry which destroyed an already dispirited French side.
When they had overcome their disbelief the French crowd began to jeer but, in truth, much of the Scottish play in that first half had been irresistible. By picking a lightweight but rapier-fast back row the Scots were not only first to the loose ball but they were able to move it at such speed away from the rucks and mauls that Townsend was given ample time and space to weave his magic. For someone who can do untold damage given just one of those luxuries this was a glorious opportunity for Townsend to demonstrate the full range of his skills and together with John Leslie they made a devil of a mess of the French defence. Glenn Metcalfe, who made more runs in the opening quarter than he would expect in a lifetime of international rugby, plunged the knife deeper into the French wounds.
With a series of miss-passes and dummies, the Scottish threequarters, under the astute direction of Gary Armstrong, made ground with almost every move, remaining true to their belief that they could run their way out of trouble even from the most unpromising of situations. If, at times this put strain on them, especially early in the second half, by which time the French had closed the gap to 11 points following a try by Christian Dominici and a conversion and penalty by David Aucagne, the replacement for Thomas Castaignede, their tactics were fully justified.
Understandably drained by the blazing speed of the first half, the second was prosaic by comparison. Metcalfe blew a marvellous opportunity of putting the result beyond doubt when he crucially delayed his final pass to Tait, thereby denying the centre his hat-trick but, more important, kept the French in the hunt. Kenny Logan, who converted four of Scotland's tries, kicked his first penalty shortly afterwards to remind us that until that point kicking had not played much of a part in the Scottish game-plan.
There were times in fact when it appeared that Townsend's boots had been electrically wired to give him a jolt should he even consider putting boot to ball. But yesterday his mastery of the fly-half's art reached new heights. His decision-making, even though he eschewed the kicking game, was near flawless, and his running on to Armstrong's flat pass, particularly from line-out ball controlled and produced by Scott Murray and Stuart Grimes, was wonderful.
So the wretchedness of the French, compounded by Castaignede's departure within two minutes of the start after he had played the leading role in Emile Ntamack's first-minute try continues. They looked a forlorn, shambolic bunch yesterday and although they may consider that they occasionally got the rough end of Clayton Thomas's decisions, they made far too many elementary errors to pose a threat. Only in the scrummage did they control matters and so adept were the Scots at clearing the ball from this phase and releasing the pressure that the French superiority was nullified.
Nothing more summed up the Scots' confidence in their ability than a line-out a yard from their line midway through the second half, when fatigue was beginning to take its toll and the Scots were taking a pounding. Instead of throwing to the safe haven at the front, Gordon Bulloch aimed for Martin Leslie at the tail and yet another attack was launched. A few minutes later Tait broke away following another series of punishing French drives and at that point what was left of the French resistance was finally broken. Budge Pountney, who with his back row comrades had been so influential, was replaced by Peter Walton and the Scots had reached the home straight of what has been a momentous championship for them.
The omens had looked far from promising before the kick-off. As the sun broke through the temperature rose appreciably and with it Gallic spirits, and when the band played "Flower of Scotland" at such a funereal pace that the Scottish supporters had finished singing five minutes before the band stopped playing, we thought there might be trouble. How right we were. Within a minute of the kick-off, Ntamack had scored. Eight minutes later, however, the Scots were ahead, Logan running audaciously out of defence and Tait turning inside to feed Martin Leslie with a scoring pass. Barely had we blinked before the Scots had doubled their score, Tait touching down after Metcalfe had run from his 22. Two more blinks and Scotland had scored a third. It was Townsend this time exploding on to Armstrong's pass and taking a return pass from John Leslie to touch down under the posts. Christophe Juillet broke the spell with France's second try but two minutes later the Scots had scored their fourth. Metcalfe once again did most of the running and Tait crossed for his second. In the 25th minute Martin Leslie scored a fifth for the Scots.
If, as most seem to think, England come away with all the prizes this afternoon, nothing can devalue Scotland's mighty contribution to this season's championship.
France: E Ntamack (Toulouse); X Garbajosa (Toulouse), P Giordani (Dax), F Comba (Stade Francais), C Dominici (Stade Francais); T Castaignede (Castres), P Carbonneau (Brive); C Califano (Toulouse), R Ibanez (Perpignan, capt), F Tournaire (Toulouse), O Brouzet (Begles- Bordeaux), T Cleda (Pau), C Labit (Toulouse), C Juillet (Perpignan),R Castel (Beziers). Replacements: D Aucagne (Pau) for Castaignede, 2; C Laussucq (Stade Francais)for Carbonneau, 37; S Marconnet (Stade Francais) for Califano, 55; D Auradou (Stade Francais) for Cleda, 55; P Benetton (Agen) for Castel, 55; T Lombard (Stade Francais) for Comba, 60.
Scotland: G Metcalfe (Glasgow Caledonians); C Murray (Edinburgh Reivers), A Tait (Edinburgh Reivers), J Leslie (Glasgow Caledonians), K Logan (Wasps); G Townsend (Brive), G Armstrong (Newcastle, capt); D Hilton (Bath), G Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), P Burnell (London Scottish), S Murray (Bedford), S Grimes (Glasgow Cale- donians), B Pountney (Northampton), S Reid (Leeds), M Leslie (Edinburgh Reivers). Replacements: S Graham (Newcastle) for Hilton, 60; P Walton (Newcastle) for Pountney, 70; A Reed (Wasps)for Murray, 70.
Referee: C Thomas (Wales).