Scotland let it slip as France stay in contention for title
France were little better than they had been in Cardiff two weeks before
France’s Yoann Huget celebrates at the final whistle following their Six Nations rugby union match against Scotland at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the weekend. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
The Scotland interim head coach, Scott Johnson, has been criticised for his selection policy in another Six Nations campaign that has seen them battle to avoid the wooden spoon but a second home victory against France in 16 years was surrendered only when a player who was dropped as captain and from the team after the opening round defeat to Ireland, Kelly Brown, was penalised under his own posts 90 seconds from the end, having been recalled.
It was desperately hard on Scotland and Brown, who had overcome a nervous start when they conceded six points, the loss of two players to injuries in the opening 30 minutes and early discomfiture up front to dominate the set pieces and look far more like the side that had a chance of winning the title.
France were little better than they had been in Cardiff two weeks before. There were flashes of individual brilliance and a swashbuckling counterattack from their own 22 after 10 minutes would have resulted in a try but for some excellent tracking back by another recalled player, the number eight David Denton, but their whole remains substantially less than the sum of their parts.
Remain in contention
Yet they remain in contention for the title thanks to Jean-Marc Doussain’s late penalty. They need to defeat Ireland on Saturday by enough points to deny England but Les Bleus again looked anything but champion and this is surely the campaign when their record of winning every Six Nations the year after a Lions tour ends.
France won the penalty count overwhelmingly. At one point it was 11-2 in their favour but the awards counted for little if they were not within range of the Scotland posts because their third-choice hooker, Brice Dulin, had the accuracy of a drunken darts player throwing with his wrong hand. He missed the target seven times before being withdrawn on 46 minutes when Les Bleus had regained the lead after another example of inaccurate handiwork, this time from the Scotland outhalf Duncan Weir, whose long pass on the visitors’ 22 was intercepted by Yoann Huget.
Scotland afterwards questioned some of the decisions of the referee, Chris Pollock, he of the first Test between the Lions and Australia last summer when it had seemed that the defending team were not allowed to contest possession at the breakdown.
Brown did not query the decision at the end when he failed to let go after a tackle and it was an evening when it paid to be in possession.
Scotland went into the game not having scored a try in the Six Nations in front of their own supporters for more than four hours but they managed two in 10 first-half minutes after capitalising on basic mistakes by France.
France wobble on, ending their worst away run in the tournament for nearly 50 years, and it would be typical of them to pull it off against Ireland, who do not count Paris as a favourite city to visit, fickle to the last.