Negative Scotland rue missed opportunities

France 22 Scotland 13
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The Independent Online

The French trudged away, muttering darkly about illegal Scottish scrummaging and only one team being interested in attack. The Scots departed, complaining at what they saw as a perfectly good try being disallowed and questioning some of the refereeing decisions.

Most of the near 80,000 crowd here turned their collars up against the bitter cold and departed shaking their heads at such sub-standard rugby. On a clear, dry, sunny Parisian day, the quality of this so-called "international" game was poor.

Straightforward passes were dropped, balls lost in the tackle, players crossed in front of the ball carrier, clear line breaks which should have brought tries (three by the Scots) petered out into nothing, scrums collapsed and constantly had to be reset.

France's problem was that they were too riddled with mistakes, too unsettled by Scotland's doughty effort to find any kind of cohesion or pattern to their play. To see world-class French three-quarters making the kind of simple errors that proliferated was to wonder how they can look such talented footballers in their club domain. Most of them just never got going. For sure, Scotland came to spoil, frustrate and negate. That is their way and they revert to type, especially in the face of the kind of adversity inflicted by the Welsh the previous week. They did it effectively, too, flanker John Barclay (right) and his back-row pals slowing French ball at the breakdown.

Yet there were other, much more positive aspects to the Scottish game. They broke the French line three times in the second half and should have capitalised. The axis of Barclay, surely a future captain of Scotland and a player who will be involved in Test rugby for years, Mike Blair and the excellent Phil Godman, promised much for the Scots. Frustratingly, only the finishing was lacking.

However, Scotland cannot compete seriously until they have a proper tight five and a solid front row. How they escaped more punishment for dropping or disrupting so many scrums, only Irish referee George Clancy can say.

But for the French to be so thrown by their opponents' steely approach and so unable to stamp any authority on the game, was a deep concern to their coach, not to mention the disillusioned Parisian crowd. Only Lionel Beauxis's goal kicking got them home as he put over five of seven attempts, besides converting Fulgence Ouedraogo's try early in the second half.

The Scots claimed, probably with some justification, that try came from a forward pass. And they may well have scored themselves when Kelly Brown got over the line, the try ruled out for an alleged offside.

Captain Blair hinted at unfair interpretations against the Scots purely because of who they are. "I didn't think we got the rub of the green and it seems it is very easy to penalise Scotland," he said, mysteriously.

But when a side comes to frustrate, chiefly to deny their opponents and shut the game down with its ambitions so restricted, does it deserve the rub of the green ?

France Try: Ouedraogo. Conversion: Beauxis. Penalties: Beauxis (5). Scotland Try: T Evans. Conversion: Paterson. Penalties: Godman (2)

France: C Poitrenaud; M Medard, B Baby, Y Jauzion, C Heymans; L Beauxis, S Tillous-Borde; F Barcella, D Szarzewski, N Mas, L Nallett (capt), R Millo-Chluski, T Dusautoir, F Ouedraogo, I Harinordoquy. Replacements: J Malzieu for Medard 79; M Mermoz for Baby 59; M Parra for Tillous-Borde 66; Kayser for Szarzewski 55; R Boyoud for Mas, 40; S Chabal for Millo-Chluski 59; L Picamoles for Harinordoquy, 70

Scotland: H Southwell (Edinburgh); S Danielli (Ulster), M Evans (Glasgow Warriors), G Morrison (Glasgow Warriors), T Evans (Glasgow Warriors); P Godman (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), A Dickinson (Gloucester), J White (Sale Sharks), J Hamilton (Edinburgh), A Strokosch (Gloucester), J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), S Taylor (Stade Francais). Replacements: C Paterson (Edinburgh) for S Danielli, 65; N de Luca (Edinburgh) for G Morrison, 73; C Cusiter (Perpignan) for Blair, 72; D Hall (Glasgow Warriors) for Ford, 65; M Low (Glasgow Warriors) for Dickinson, 46; K Brown (Glasgow Warriors) for Hamilton, 17.

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).