Fresh bounce in France’s step as they gain precious momentum

Scotland despondent as dreams of a title success disappear again

Was this the day to herald French brilliance or to bemoan the same old faultlines that persist so stubbornly in Scotland’s constitution?

The temptation, if the bearing of the two camps afterwards is anything to go by, is to opt for the latter. Certainly, Scotland seemed more traumatised by the defeat than France were euphoric about a resounding victory at one of their less favoured grounds of late.

Then again, the shrug of the French shoulders, so often a symptom of their own faultline, on this occasion seemed quite ominous. Their travelling fans were raucous and numerous in equal measure, but the sang froid of this iteration of French players was notable for its contrast to their delirious support - and all the more chilling for that.

Six tries to two in Edinburgh tells its own story. Gregor Townsend found the margin of victory particularly galling.

“It looks very disappointing,” he said. “I think we’ve shown over the last couple of years that we’ve either won games or lost them by close margins. But whether we’d lost by a point or 20, it doesn’t change things too much. Our goal is to win, and to do that you have got to take your opportunities. Then it becomes a different game. The opposition have to do something different.”

He will no doubt be referring to Scotland’s missed chances in the first half, but particularly one just before the break, when Scotland had played their way back to within two points of the French, having faced a 12-3 deficit after only 12 minutes. Of all the pale, traumatised Scottish faces, Stuart Hogg’s looked the most drawn.

Scotland’s captain made his first start for Scotland 10 years earlier to the day - against France at Murrayfield.

The reputation he has built since has been based on brilliance and speed, but he could be forgiven for feeling as if his legacy was slipping away with the ball as he spilled a long pass from Chris Harris with a simple foot race to the line ahead of him. The kind of foot race he would have won.

That would have put Scotland ahead at the break. It would have forced France “to do something different”, as Townsend put it. Alas, France were never worthier of their growing reputation than when they proceeded to punish the mistake with calm ruthlessness. Two tries followed, either side of the break. Game over, another Scottish championship in vain.

Grand Slam

France now proceed with that most precious of assets in this short, intense championship: momentum. Two more wins stand between them and their first Grand Slam since 2010.

Neither assignment is a gimme. Wales and England are hardly pulling up trees at the moment, but both know how to raise themselves against France. A Friday night in Cardiff is the sort of trip that could ruffle the composure of French teams of the not-too-distant past.

England, meanwhile, laboured to beat a compromised Welsh side at home, but to be written off for a final-weekend visit to Paris would suit their psyche far better. France know a Grand Slam remains some way off. The way they reacted to this win at Murrayfield makes that all too plain.

Scotland must raise themselves to face Italy a week on Saturday. Hogg spoke of his anguish that they had to wait another two weeks to play again. He wanted to play Italy the next day. Townsend said he wanted to play France the next day. Both men were struggling with the torture of another season of unfulfilled promise.

At least the performance of Rory Darge was a positive. Scotland were missing a few key players, three of them in the back row, but Darge led a trio that held their own. He's just turned 22. Hogg and Finn Russell are still in their 20s. Time is far from up for any of them.

But in another 10 years, will Darge be in as much pain as his seniors were this weekend? Or will Scotland have turned their talent into something more tangible?