Scotland turn tables on France but still have room to improve
Ireland’s pool opponents came back firing after their humiliation in Nice last week
Scotland players react at the final whistle as they beat France in their World Cup warm-up at Murrayfield. Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Scotland 17 France 14
A much-changed Scotland bounced back strongly from last week’s thrashing by France by winning the return fixture at Murrayfield on Saturday, though neither team will take much joy from what was a scrappy World Cup warm-up clash.
Gregor Townsend’s side were still disjointed at times and made some basic errors but they found a way to win – which will be a huge confidence boost ahead of next weekend’s trip to Tbilisi to take on a Georgian team who will be desperate to cause an upset.
“The collective effort, mindset, commitment was there in the jersey, that was really pleasing to see and we found a way to win in amongst a lot of adversity,” said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.
“Losing a try early on, losing another try on our ball, being down at half-time but coming back, losing key players, players playing in different positions near the end, so that’s pleasing.”
After last week’s 32-3 humiliation in Nice, the Scots made 14 changes, with only fullback Stuart Hogg retained in what looked a much stronger starting XV.
A week ago they conceded a try after 25 seconds and they were 7-0 down again after two minutes on Saturday as winger Damian Penaud snatched an interception from Peter Horne and ran 50 metres to score under the posts.
It is three games in a row that Scotland have conceded a try inside two minutes of kick-off – Jack Nowell got England off to a flyer when the two sides met back in March – and it is a habit that they need to get out of soon.
Scotland recovered to narrow the gap through a Greig Laidlaw offside penalty, and they had a few more half chances during the next 20 minutes, although they struggled to click as an attacking force and were hesitant in defence.
But France were also gifted their second try after 27 minutes after Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell failed to gather a high kick. Gael Fickou cut loose before feeding Penaud to score his second try – Thomas Ramos slotting his second conversion.
Scotland struck back just before half-time when Ramos directed a hospital pass at Penaud on his own 22. Chris Harris made the hit, Kinghorn scooped up the loose ball, and Harris got straight back into the game to collect Kinghorn’s offload.
The centre was pulled down just short of the line, but Scotland recycled quickly. Pete Horne had a dart in midfield to suck in the French defence, then another quick recycle gave Russell the chance to send Sean Maitland in for a score in the corner with a trademark floated pass over Charles Ollivan’s head. Laidlaw struck the conversion to make it 14-10 at the interval.
The game remained scrappy until the hour mark when Murrayfield came to life as Hogg sent a long kick up the right touchline and Kinghorn did well to close down the French as they tried to clear the danger. A few minutes later, Chris Harris hit the line like a runaway train to score under the sticks.
Scotland were now three points ahead after Laidlaw added the extras, which was quite astonishing given how out-of-sorts they had been, and they held on for a hard-fought victory.
France will be hugely disappointed with how they failed to get a foothold in the game in the second half, struggling to deliver cohesion through forwards or backs.
Scotland showed more ambition, though their execution was often sloppy, and they ended up looking the more dangerous team as the game became more open. Despite the scruffy nature of the game, the sun-drenched home fans were happy to acclaim the win, though Scotland’s celebrations were tempered by what looked a potentially serious leg injury to lock Sam Skinner, who was helped off after 65 minutes.
Scotland now have two matches against Georgia on August 31st and September 6th to fine-tune their preparations before they face a formidable first game of the World Cup against Ireland in Yokohama on September 22nd.
“There’s a lot to work on, we know that, but that’s more like what I thought it would be,” Townsend added.
“But it was great to see the crowd getting really behind the team and the players finding that win so we can go to Georgia with at least a win behind us.”
France, still looking miles away from a settled unit capable of going deep into the World Cup, complete their warm-up campaign against Italy at home next weekend as they build towards their own crunch opener against Argentina in Pool C, which also contains England.
Scorers - Scotland: Tries: Maitland, Harris. Cons: Laidlaw 2. Pens: Laidlaw. France: Tries: Penaud 2. Cons: Ramos 2.
SCOTLAND: Hogg, Seymour, Harris, P. Horne, Maitland, Russell, Laidlaw, Reid, Turner, Nel, Cummings, Skinner, Wilson, Watson, Thomson. Replacements: Kinghorn for Seymour (16), Hutchinson for P. Horne (68), G. Horne for Laidlaw (73), Dell for Reid (47), Berghan for Nel (58), Gilchrist for Cummings (58), Stewart for Skinner (63), Barclay for Thomson (42).
FRANCE: Tries: Penaud 2. Cons: Ramos 2. France: Ramos, Penaud, Fickou, Guitoune, Raka, Lopez, Dupont, Poirot, Guirado, Slimani, Lambey, Vahaamahina, Iturria, Ollivon, Alldritt. Replacements: Medard for Ramos (63), Ntamack for Lopez (38), Serin for Dupont (63), Baille for Poirot (50), Chat for Guirado (50), Setiano for Slimani (63), Taofifenua for Lambey (50), Camara for Alldritt (63).