A miserably poor, disappointing dogfight of an international reminded us only of the limitations of the Six Nations' Championship. That Scotland kept the scoreline down to respectable proportions was a triumph, if only for their ability to reduce the French to their own level.
It was a grim game, riddled with elementary mistakes. France could never break free and the Scots,though wonderfully committed and courageous, simply did not havethe ability to take advantage of the off-colour French.
"We talked about the need to be brave and ambitious coming here and we were," Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, said. "But we made too many handling errors. We had six line breaks to three by France but two of ours which were excellent finished in nothing."
That France, with their terrifically talented threequarter line, could manage only a single, scrambled try, early in the second half, spoke volumes. This was an awful advertisement for the tournament and an apt commentary on the differing standards pertaining in the two hemispheres. On the evidence of the past 18 months, only Wales can be exempted from such criticism.
Scotland had to concede penalties in order to stay in touch and France had to rely on the boot of their fly-half, Lionel Beauxis, to get them home. The Stade Français player was successful with five of his seven penaltyattempts and three of them came in the second half as the Scots tried manfully to hang on.
Just once, in the 45th minute, did the French break through. In a series of drives up the right side, they inched closer to the line. Their captain, the lock Lionel Nallet, fed the wing Maxime Médard and his pass put the flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo over. Beauxis converted.
It was the Scots who managed the better raids in the second half. But only once were they successful, when their impressive fly-half, Phil Godman, dashed into the French 22. The forwards drove on and assaulted the French line before Godman put the wing Thom Evans over with an inside pass. Chris Paterson converted but the Scots could not get any closer.
Hadden's belief that he had fixed his side's scrum problems lasted barely five minutes. That was how long it took for the French pack to crunch the Scottish front row, causing the first of many collapses. In Hadden's favour, however, was that this was the Irishman George Clancy's first Six Nations game. Had a more experienced referee been in charge, more penalties would undoubtedly have flowed.
Hadden's masterplan otherwise worked well enough. The Scots slowed the game down and put up a blanket defence which all but smothered French attacking aspirations.The flanker John Barclay was especially effective on the floor. The French became increasingly exasperated.
With their backs coach, Emile N'tamack, gesticulating on the sidelines, the French ran straight into contact, crossed in front of the ball-carrier and gave away penalties, or dropped the ball. When all other ideas had been exhausted, Beauxis hoisted a few high, hopeful up-and-unders
Scotland were equally poor in sustaining any attacks they did mount. Max Evans made a break but lost the ball in a tackle; poor ball-control cost them other promising positions.
Both sides were bedevilled by the pace at which the ball was delivered from the breakdown. To call it funereal would be insulting to the dead, many of whom have hurried to their graves at a greater pace. French prop-forwards standing over the ball at breakdowns, ponderously assessing situations while one of the quickest back lines in world rugby waited to be released, defied logic.
This, alas, was the price both sides paid for losing their opening matchesand suffering the resultant damage to their confidence. This increasingly resembled more a survival exercise.
All there was to show for a first half of much industry were three penalty goals. Beauxis landed two, after 22and 37 minutes. Godman replied for the Scots after 34 minutes when France were penalised at the breakdown. It was better in the second half. But only slightly.
France: C Poitrenaud; M Médard (J Malzieu, 79), B Baby (M Mermoz, 59), Y Jauzion, C Heymans; L Beauxis, S Tillous-Borde (M Parra, 66); F Barcella, D Szarzewski (B Kayser, 55), N Mas (R Boyoud, 40), L Nallet (capt), R Millo-Chluski (S Chabal, 59), T Dusautoir, I Harinordoquy (L Picamoles, 70), F Ouedraogo.
Scotland: H Southwell; S Danielli (C Paterson, 65), M Evans, G Morrison (N De Luca, 73), T Evans; P Godman, M Blair (capt; C Cusiter, 72); A Jacobsen (Dickinson, 70), R Ford (D Hall, 65), A Dickinson (M Low, 46), J White, J Hamilton (K Brown, 17), A Strokosch, S Taylor, J Barclay.
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).Reuse content