France stay on course as Scots are left to suffer

Scotland 0 France 31
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There was plenty of smoke at Murrayfield before the game, but no fire once this Six Nations match got under way. If France say they want the Grand Slam then on this evidence they do not want it that much, while Scotland did not even have a glowing ember with which to warm their patient fans.

There was plenty of smoke at Murrayfield before the game, but no fire once this Six Nations match got under way. If France say they want the Grand Slam then on this evidence they do not want it that much, while Scotland did not even have a glowing ember with which to warm their patient fans.

This was, for the most part, a passionless affair. The only real excitement came with the pre-match entertainment, which featured a fly-past by a couple of RAF Tornados - their run perfectly timed to coincide with the climax of "Flower of Scotland", which had been belted out by Pop Idol's Darius Danesh, a Glaswegian.

There had been thunderflashes around the ground and on the roof before the match started, hence the smoke. There were massed pipes and drums, choirs and a spectacular introduction to the Scottish anthem when the fans in both tiers of the East Stand held up coloured cards, which formed a giant saltire.

It was dramatic indeed. But the drama was needed on the pitch, not off it, and unfortunately Scotland just could not summon up the necessary, or at least not until a couple of minutes from the final whistle, by which time France were clear and away. Only then did the Scots finally get close enough to threaten the French line.

The home team pressed hard but the French defence did not waver, not even when the replacement scrum-half, Mike Blair, looked to have wriggled over the try line. Les Bleus simply held him up. It left Scotland pointless in a game at Murrayfield for the first time in 26 years, since they lost 15-0 to England in 1978.

It also left them holding the wooden spoon, unless they can pull off the upset of the 21st Century and beat Ireland on their home turf. But Ireland, conquerors of England, are looking to clinch the Triple Crown. They are up for it, so the prospect of a visit to Lansdowne Road in six days time cannot be too appealing to a Scotland team that looked devoid of ideas and creative ability.

The error count was high for both sides but, unlike their opponents, the Scots were unable to compensate with any real continuity. If the pack had improved on previous performances it was still just not sufficient to contain a very ordinary-looking French team. France did enough and no more to secure the fourth leg of their quest for the Grand Slam. Perhaps they were saving themselves for the big one next week against England in Paris. Whatever - they certainly never seemed to get into this match. They were strangely lacklustre and uninspired, to the point of disinterest at times. True, they scored three tries, two by Yannick Jauzion, one of their hulking centres, but it was all just a bit flat.

Where the French were flawless was on the disciplinary front. As the Scotland captain Chris Paterson conceded: "In the past French discipline has always let them down, but if we were never given a sight of their line, neither did they give us a single shot at goal. Not scoring a point at Murrayfield is the biggest disappointment to me."

In contrast, the French owed the bulk of their scoring opportunities to Scottish delinquents. It was about the only consistent feature of the Scottish game, other than their propensity to commit basic errors. They fell foul of the Australian referee, Scott Young, too often, invariably within range of the scrum-half, Dimitri Yachvili's boot.

The only try of a scrappy first half came when the old warhorse Olivier Magne, on his 76th appearance, galloped down the left wing after being put away by Jauzion. The home side's indiscipline spilled over in the second half and allowed the French to slip further away, which was a disappointment because all the purposeful rugby in the run-up to the interval and for much of the third quarter came from the Scots.

When Jauzion knifed between Tom Philip and Paterson in the 64th minute for his opening try, and followed it up with a second 10 minutes later, it did at least give the crowd something to get emotional about. But what Scotland need now is less hype, more hope.

Scotland

Half-time: 0-11

France

Tries: Jauzion 2, Magne

Cons: Yachvili 2

Pens: Yachvili 4

Att: 66,324

SCOTLAND: D Lee (Edinburgh); S Danielli (Bath), T Phillip (Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Webster (Edinburgh); C Paterson (Edinburgh, capt), C Cusiter (Borders); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), G Bulloch (Glasgow), B Douglas (Borders), S Murray (Edinburgh), S Grimes (Newcastle), J White (Sale), S Taylor (Edinburgh), C Mather (Glasgow). Replacements: R Russell (Saracens) for Bulloch, 66; G Kerr (Leeds) for Jacobsen 35; N Hines (Edinburgh) for Grimes 51; A Hogg (Edinburgh) for Mather 40; M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter 40; D Parks (Glasgow) for Lee 59; Jacobsen for Douglas 74.

FRANCE: N Brusque (Biarritz); P Elhorga (Agen), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), D Traille (Pau), C Dominici (Stade Français); F Michalak (Toulouse), D Yachvili (Biarritz); S Marconnet (Stade Français), W Servat (Toulouse), P de Villiers (Stade Français), F Pelous (Toulouse, capt), P Papé (Bourgoin), S Betsen (Biarritz), T Lièvremont (Biarritz), O Magne (Montferrand). Replacements: Y Bru (Toulouse) for Servat 51; J-J Crenca (Agen) for Marconnet 64; D Auradou (Stade Français) for Papé 72; J Bonnaire (Bourgoin) for Betsen 19-22, for Lièvremont 50; J Peyrelongue (Biarritz) for Michalak 40.

Referee: S Young (Australia)

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