Error-strewn Scots urged to rediscover their ruthless edge

France 34 Scotland 21
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The Independent Online

The Scots are by no means the first to get off to a faulty start in the pressure dome of the French national sporting stadium. When the American sprinter Jon Drummond twitched in his starting blocks in the 100m quarter-finals at the world athletics championships here on the north side of Paris in 2003, he infamously ignored a red card and lay down on the track and refused to budge. The locals howled in disapproval at such arrogant disregard for both reality and accountability.

At one point on Saturday evening, as Andy Robinson watched his side not so much jump the gun in their Six Nations opener as get stuck in the blocks, Scotland's head coach sat slumped with a look of Victorian disenchantment on his face. He was not amused, and rightly so. France had just plundered their fourth try – plundered being the operative word.

True, Marc Lièvremont's team had done so with a liberal dash of Gallic flair, their pimpernel wing Maxime Médard darting away up the left and then Dimitri Yachvili and Clément Poitrenaud combining brilliantly to shoo in Damien Traille under the posts. Crucially, however, the chance came courtesy of a wild fling of the ball by the Scotland centre-turned-wing Max Evans.

To have been turned over for one try would have been careless of Robinson's charges. To have done so for four in the unforgiving arena of the Six Nations champions' backyard was a carelessness that Scotland's head honcho was never going to excuse.

Admittedly, there were crumbs of Caledonian comfort in defeat against a French side who looked more like the dashing Grand Slammers of last season than the puff pastry outfit who crumbled against Australia in the autumn – not least crossing the opposition whitewash on three occasions. In three fell swoops, the Scots equalled their try tally from the whole of the 2010 championship, and from their previous eight Test matches.

Then there was the stand-out performance by the 6ft 8in Richie Gray. The blond-mopped Glasgow lock seemed to be everywhere, bursting through tackles – as he did through the middle, paving the way for Alastair Kellock's 19th minute try – and hauling down French fliers. Seven caps into his international career, this was a real coming-of-age display by the 21-year-old human dynamo.

And yet, whilst acknowledging the positives, Robinson could not look past the over-riding negatives. "We're here to win Test matches and we've got to have a ruthless edge about the way that we play," he said. "For France to score four tries from our turnovers is not good enough. They dominated us at the scrum and in their attacking play from turnovers."

The scrum has to be another major area of concern for Robinson as he looks to pick up his side to face Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday. Euan Murray, his tighthead prop, had a torrid evening in direct opposition to the loosehead tyro Thomas Domingo, conceding five penalties. Allan Jacobsen and Ross Ford fared little better at the front of a pack that failed to push its vastly superior weight.

"The scrum is one of the areas we'll look at," Robinson said. "But we'll be centring on our turnovers." It was from a botched line-out on halfway that the buckling Scottish scrum ultimately conceded a penalty try just before the half-hour. It was from a Nick De Luca turnover that Médard scored the opening try, with just four minutes on the clock, and it was also from carelessly spurned Scottish possession that Imanol Harinordoquy galloped away for the third home try, after an outrageous between-the-legs pass from fly-half François Trinh-Duc.

Not that the French could care how the spoils came their way. The lingering ghost of their 59-16 defeat against the Wallabies had been successfully exorcised. Lièvremont might have to make another change at centre for Sunday's trip to Dublin, with Yannick Jauzion set to replace the injured Maxime Mermoz, but the wheels are now back on the French bandwagon. When it rolls up against the English chariot at Twickenham on 26 February, sparks are likely to fly.

Scorers: France: Tries Médard, penalty try, Harinordoquy, Traille; Conversions Parra 2, Yachvili 2; Penalty Yachvili; Drop-goal Trinh-Duc. Scotland: Tries Kellock, Brown, S Lamont; Conversions Parks 2, Jackson.

France D Traille; Y Huget, A Rougerie, M Mermoz (C Poitrenaud, 45), M Médard (V Clerc, 80); F Trinh-Duc, M Parra (D Yachvili, 52); T Domingo (N Mas, 70), W Servat (G Guirado, 58), N Mas (L Ducalcon, 52), J Pierre, L Nallet (J Thion, 63), T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, I Harinordquy (S Chabal, 56).

Scotland: H Southwell; N Walker, J Ansbro, N De Luca (S Lamont, 56), M Evans; D Parks (R Jackson, 69), R Lawson (M Blair, h-t); A Jacobsen, R Ford (D Hall, 74), E Murray (M Low, 71), R Gray, A Kellock (capt), N Hines (R Vernon, 56), J Barclay (R Rennie, 62), K Brown.

Referee: W Barnes (England).

The match statistics...


France 4 Tries Scotland 3

France 4/4 Conversions Scotland 3/3

France 1/3 Penalties Scotland 0/0

France 1/1 Drop goals Scotland 0/0

Phases of play

France 2 Scrums won Scotland 2

France 0 Scrums lost Scotland 1

France 11 Line-outs won Scotland 10

France 1 Line-outs lost Scotland 4

France 7 Pens conceded Scotland 9

France 4 Mauls won Scotland 2

France 28 Ruck and drive Scotland 16

France 54 Ruck and pass Scotland 77Team statistics

France 169 Passes made Scotland 203

France 5 Line breaks Scotland 3

France 19 Possession kicked Scot'd 22

France 6 Kicks to touch Scotland 9

France 112 Tackles made Scotland 108

France 25 Tackles missed Scotland 14

France 12 Offloads in tackle Scotland 8

France 17 Total errors made Scot'd12

Ball won

France 86 In open play Scotland 95

France 19 In opponent's 22 Scotland 20

France 22 At set-pieces Scotland 19

France 1 Turnovers won Scotland 2