Scotland 20 France 16: Lamont leads ravenous Scots to historic upset

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The Independent Online

If all history is bunk do not tell it to Scotland, who made a tartan-wrapped chunk of it by beating the Six Nations favourites, France, in a tumultuous and hugely enjoyable match.

Scotland had too much wit and will and no little skill, especially at close quarters, for France, who stuttered and stalled as they fell on the sort of indefatigable tackling that has not been seen from a Scotland side for many a match. In the past six years Scotland have only registered eight victories in Europe, but they can look forward to the remainder of this year's competition more in expectation than hope. Wales are next up, in Cardiff on Sunday.

All week long north of the border, the talk of a Scottish revival had generated enough hot air to fill a thousand bagpipes, but since Scotland dispensed with the services of Matt Williams as coach the more pragmatic Frank Hadden has indicated a real promise of improvement. There were still plenty of empty seats at Murrayfield yesterday, but there is likely to be a rush for those unsold for the Calcutta Cup match here two weeks on Saturday. England will know there is a real chance of another seismic upset.

What doubts there were about the ability of the Scotland front five to hold the French pack soon evaporated. This was seen as the crucial element in a contest which France were expected to win with something to spare. But the captain, Jason White (winning this 50th cap), and his back-row cohorts led a very passable impression of the Scotland teams of the Eighties, when France found the place impregnable and the likes of Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey and John Beattie frightened the life out of all visitors.

France made a confident start and had no difficulty in rebuffing the first Scotland attack. Then, when Simon Taylor took a quickly tapped penalty when a line-out drive may have been a better option, the No 8 was held. But Scotland, in no mood to be bullied, forced the French on to the back foot to win a ruck, wide on the right. The ball was spun quickly across the posts for Sean Lamont to barrel his way through Frédéric Michalak's limp tackle for the opening try. Chris Paterson converted.

This stung France into an immediate riposte, but Nicolas Brusque dropped Florian Fritz's pass with a three-on-two overlap. Back came Scotland with a sweeping move initiated by Scott Murray and carried on by Mike Blair which petered out when Paterson was turned over. The wing made amends with two penalties before France put some points on the board, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde stroking over a penalty with the last play of the half. The Scots were full value for their 13-3 advantage, but it remained to be seen if they could build on it.

The man who did so was Lamont, who got himself on the end of a huge forward drive for try No 2 within five minutes of the restart. Paterson's conversion made it 20-3.

Scotland were given some anxious moments when Julien Bonnaire crossed in the left corner, not much further out than a later touchdown by Sébastien Bruno. But although Elissalde kicked a penalty, the scrum-half failed with both conversions. Those four points separated the sides at the finish.

Without the injured Yannick Jauzion, France were adrift in midfield. There was a complete absence of flair and intuition, while Scotland won all the battles that counted.

At the heart of their effort was Scott Murray, the only survivor from the last Scotland team to beat France, at the Stade de France way back in 1999. But the remaining seven forwards helped him scrap to the last. They had earned their drams of malt.



Scotland: H Southwell; C Paterson (both Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), M Di Rollo (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Northampton); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Leeds), D Hall (Edinburgh), B Douglas (Borders), A Kellock (Glasgow), S Murray (Edinburgh), J White (Sale, capt), A Hogg, S Taylor (both Edinburgh). Replacements: S Lawson (Glasgow) for Hall, 62; J Petrie (Glasgow) for White, 70; C Smith (Edinburgh) for Douglas, 41; S Webster (Edinburgh) for Di Rollo, 28; S MacLeod (Borders) for Kellock, 71; C Cusiter (Borders) for Blair, 55; G Ross (Leeds) for Parks, 62.

France: N Brusque (Biarritz); C Dominici (Stade Français), F Fritz (Toulouse), L Valbon (Brive), C Heymans; F Michalak, J-B Elissalde (all Toulouse); S Marconnet, D Szarzewski, P de Villiers (all Stade Français), F Pelous (Toulouse, capt), J Thion (Biarritz), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), R Martin (Stade Français), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin). Replacements: S Bruno (Sale) for Szarzewski, 64; D Yachvili (Biarritz) for Elissalde, 79; T Lièvremont (Biarritz) for Bonnaire, 71; G Bousses (Bourgoin) for Brusque ,74; O Milloud (Bourgoin) for De Villiers, 64.

Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).

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