Scotland 17 – 23 France

We were blessed with the sight of a packed Sunday Murrayfield.

The atmosphere had a Gallic tinge to it as an enthusiastic French crowd flew over looking to claim another victory on the way to a suspected Championship win. Their nation expected, whilst the Scottish folk were harbouring defiant optimism. There was not so much expectation as an assurance of improvement, in some guise.

There was also, it must be said, a hope that the sometimes Schizophrenic French would abandon their new pragmatic approach in favour of a more unpredictable, immeasurable endeavour. What they got was a rampant Scotland throwing everything they had at them from the off, only to tire later as France crawled to victory.

Two minutes in and Scotland had a penalty attempt for Laidlaw that fell short and was hideously hoisted into touch by Rougerie. France repelled Scottish raids, but there were so many runs and so many hefty collisions that it looked liked Scotland would either obliterate their own bodies or make the decisive break.

On the 9th minute, after such a series of attacks, Scotland coughed up a scrum. The French marched the Scots back but Fofana ran too hard a line and bundled the ball forward. From the turnover several passes were made to hard runners. Laidlaw picked up a backwards ball, looked around, changed direction and passed right. The ball ended up in the exciting Stuart Hogg’s hands and he raced in at the corner untouched. Laidlaw converted.

Suddenly every time Hogg took the ball the crowd took to their feet. Everyone else was wanting to make breaks. Blair, Denton, Hamilton and Ford all hinted at darts and Rennie tirelessly tore into contacts. Of course the French are no slouches and Clerc and Medard almost conspired to score from a pitch-length away amongst all the pulsing excitement.

Laidlaw clipped over a penalty on the 26th minute, but the French could not be held at bay for too long. From a lineout in Scotland’s half the ball was hit up with some heavies, Trinh-Duc almost slipped through and then a hard pass was fired at Wesley Fofana, who was absolutely flying, and he barrelled over. Parra converted and suddenly it was 10-7.

This new French side don’t panic and with Scotland working to a frenzied pace the opposition stuck to what they knew. Parra dispatched another penalty kick and missed one, but looked like they were still comfortable going into the second half.

After the break France approached play like they had in the first half. They were patient. Sensible, even. Phases were strung together and Parra accepted a penalty award, kicking it to take the game to 10-13.

France were happy to pick their moments after this. There were a lot of knock-ons, but their scrum could get the shoulder and the edge they wanted without totally annihilating the Scots. They kicked when they had to. In short: they did nothing exciting. The New France.

Duncan Weir came on and Scotland sat a bit deeper with their passing. It seemed to work as Hogg and Sean Lamont was fed on the run.

There was a turnover in the 56th minute from Barclay, De Luca made a dart and Vernon, on for Denton, raced through, held his pass and then hit Lee Jones for his first score. Weir easily converted.

Again France replied, though. They do not panic. The ball was spun to Malzieu who picked out Jones and bumped him over. He drew Hogg just as Medard raced into his line of vision. The full-back went under the posts and Parra converted, making it 17-20.

Now the French scrum was really turning the screw and were claiming penalties from the scrummage. There were some more collisions in the middle of the park, but the impacts were taking their toll. By the time Beauxis dropped a goal to make it 17-23 France had brought on their players like Servat, Nallet and Beauxis himself. They had no problem in slow playing this one and the industrious home side had to keep working at feverish pace to create anything.

A streaker briefly intervened but this only broke up the tedious plod towards the end of the match set up by Saint-Andre’s pragmatic side. Hogg almost made another break but he was caught by the cover and France ground this out for the win.

Scotland will be happy with their energetic display and Hogg and Rennie played brilliantly, but their scrum was made to give up numerous penalties and France pulled out scores if and when they needed them. Scotland will now have a week off before taking on an Ireland side made to regroup in a short space of time.

That one could be tight, judging by this display.

Scotland: Hogg; R. Lamont, S. Lamont, Morrison, Jones; Laidlaw, Blair; Jacobsen, Ford, Cross, Gray, Hamilton, Barclay, Rennie, Denton.

Subs: S. Lawson, Kalman, Kellock, Vernon, Cusiter, Weir, De Luca.

France: Medard; Clerc, Rougerie, Fofana, Malzieu; Trinh-Duc, Parra; Poux, Szarzewski, Mas, Pape, Maestri, Dusautoir, Harinordoquy, Picamoles.

Subs: Servat, Debaty, Nallet, Bonnaire, Dupuy, Beauxis, Mermoz.

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

50 comments on “Scotland 17 – 23 France

  1. andy mercer on

    Much better,well done Hoggy A breath of fresh air. Yet again though the rain clouds came.Unfortunate injuries Lamont, Blair, then the tree started to creek. Scotland were very unlucky again. There are signs, yet I fear to little to late. N.D Luca you answered your critics,a better performance. Move on, BEWARE Italy away. Damage limitation.

    • will on

      yes, I saw on the round up it was a dead leg… still better than ‘two-step’ Cusiter. What is it with scrum-halves that need to have a cappuccino every time the ball is waiting for them at the back of a ruck?
      They should be made to watch back to back games of George Gregan to see how a good sh keeps a team going forward.

  2. Hamish on

    Lots of encouragement – I’m still not convinced by Laidlaw at 10 – he looks like a 9 playing out of position to me.

    Thought Weir did well when he came on and would like to see Laidlaw given a run at 9. Thought Cusiter played well.

    Pleased for De Luca – he was a bawhair from butchering the Jones try though!

    • will on

      Hamish,
      Cusiter was OK in the loose but old ‘two-step’ is constipates the game. Why does he need to point and gesticulate and talk at the back of every ruck rather than just pass the ball? – And then take two steps to pass it.

      Anyone else think Robo’s ‘tactical’ substitutions a real liability? – Taking off Ford and Blair was idiotic.

    • Cameron Black on

      Aye – dead leg – Camera had him hobbling up steps just after half time – Ford put in a real shift, one of his best in a Scotland shirt, think he was probably paggered.

  3. Borderman on

    Hamish dont talk such tosh! Laidlaw was and will be one of our leading lights going forward. He set up a great try by Hogg who was outstanding a total breath of fresh air! We gave away too many silly penalties yet again which puts pressure on the whole team. Discipline here needs to improve.We need to assess further options with the pack particularly in the front row who seemed to run out of steam ! It appears on TV that the body language between Robinson and Townsend is not good. Do they actually speak to one another? I see a problem there that needs to be sorted by banging there heads together for the sake of Scotland. On the whole a good performance by an improving side but lets not all forget the opposition were narrowly beaten in last years World Cup Final. So its not all that bad is it !
    Scotland The Brave !

    • Hamish on

      Didn’t say I don’t think he’s worth a spot in the side, but to me he looks like a 9 playing out of position, and I’d like to see him play in his best position.

      Hogg’s try was from a broken down move and good awareness of space on his part rather than great stand off play. He’s definitely a player who makes things happen so I’d absolutely have him in the side.

    • Andy K on

      Totally agree with Hamish.

      Laidlaw should concentrate on 9 for his own and for the team best interests.

      He is indeed a breath of fresh air, but his lack of size could be less of a handicap at 9 (Cuthbert and the massive Trihn-Duc have exploited this in consecutive matches. Do you think Declan Kidney has noticed??)

      Weir is a more physical option and is a better goal kicker than either Jackson or Laidlaw.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      The old “how do you fit Blair and Cusiter in the same team” debate could now be applied to Greig and Mike. With Lee Jones a former 9 as well and 9 our traditional position of strength, maybe we need to look for large Mike Philips style 9s we can spread throughout our backline…

  4. Kev on

    Great Performance, Sh*t Result. Again we were part of a good 6N match BUT what the hell is happening at scrum time? Pretty embarrasing. IMO the players believe they can win, and thats with Hogg, Weir, Laidlaw,Denton and Jones…young inexperienced test players. I think the public believe we can win, Now we just need to get the win. Hate looking at referees for blame but again the inconcistencies from officials may have hindered our cause. If we had Ansbro, Evans, Brown , Murray, Jackson back putting pressure on the current team plus Visser and Matt Scott in Summer, there may be exciting times ahead.

  5. Fraser on

    Borderman, I don’t think it’s wise to try and judge the relationship between Robinson and Townsend on the basis of their body language during 80 minutes of an international. I’m not sure what you’re expecting to see them doing…

  6. Allan on

    An excellent performance in all areas bar the scrum. Truly awful in that regard. However, i cannot be the only person who was mystified by Wayne Barnes refereeing display. Constant french midfield offside, failing to roll away at the breakdown, going off their feet at the tackle, high tackle on wier, rougeries shoulder charge on jones at the end. On top of that, andy nicols fence sitting is really getting on my tits. What is he paid for, to kiss up to all and sundry or to offer an opinion. A poor effort unworthy of the players 100% on the field. De luca played well so i would bring him back in for s lamont and move him out to replace his unlucky brother. Cus just isnt playing great at the mo so maybe lawson on bench. Some serious scrummaging practice required i think!

  7. uselessborderer on

    Individually some very good performances but we need a team of 15? France came to win the game without any real effort and exercised so much control that we were playing a poor second. We have a couple of real “Jessie’s” in Jim Hamilton & Al Kellock, big but totally useless as they lack any rugby football skills. Did their French counterparts look uncomfortable with ball in hand, because Hamilton stills treats it as a hot potato. (he’s OK when he plays for Gloucester because he has far better players around him) France also played the gain line better than us and Weir was faced with shipping out ball to marked men or taking a hiding himself – in fact he did so on more than one occasion. Our forwards as a group of eight were miles behind the French in terms of speed to the point of breakdown and controlling the ball – how many times did a French foot come across and kick the ball away from a ruck or maul – more than I care to count. Where were our hard men the props and second rowers on these occasions – we lack dynamism and street wise belligerence – Hamilton et al were powdering their noses whilst the French stole our ball. Sorry not good enough and as a result our backs are living of scraps.
    All of the contributors to this blog live in cuckoo land because they believe we are improving. True, but not at the rate of the other nations who are slowly moving further ahead of us!! What do we do I ask myself because I want Scotland to succeed – is there someone out there who can move us onwards and upwards. I’m praying as I finish …………..

    • Andy K on

      Hamilton has better players than Gray, Denton, Rennie and Barclay round about him at Gloucester????

      Keep taking the tablets chief!!

    • Andy K on

      If we are forgiving NDL all his previous misdemeanours for yesterdays performance, then surely Scott Lawson gets the same treatment after Cardiff and yesterday??

    • Rory Baldwin on

      In fairness I did think Lawson looked sharp in Cardiff, would need to watch yesterday’s game back to see if he made an impact against France. Certainly he has been impressive for Gloucester whenever I have seen them on TV this season, and his lineout is usually spot on. It is just the tendency to give away penalties late in the game that I will have to learn to forgive…

  8. will on

    Main problem: The scrum disintegrated.
    Jacobsen gave away a moron’s penalty with a high tackle before ht and then another going off his feet after ht. He’s a bigger liability than Peter Wright.
    We have a real problem with a lack of strength in our props. Once the French pack got on top it was game over. Also as soon as they had possession in our half you knew the penalty was coming.
    The Irish pack is going to hump us in the tight unless something is done.
    Pathetic inability to give support to anyone who made a break – classic sign of a team lacking self belief.

    Hogg for outside centre?

  9. William on

    Bien que français, je suis un ardent supporteur du XV du Chardon qui nous offre souvent un magnifique spectacle et dont les efforts sont malheureusement bien peu récompensés. Je pense et j’espère que cette équipe sortira enfin du bas du tableau de ce tournoi.

    Although French, I am a strong supporter of the XV of the Thistle, which often offers us a great show and whose efforts are unfortunately very little reward. I think and hope that this team will finally emerge from the bottom of the table of this tournament.

  10. ND1984 on

    Missed tackles cost the team badly. Jones and Laidlaw had memorable misses, the latter looking very vulnerable. If I was Irish, I would be targeting that area?

  11. Stuart Cameron on

    Sorry guys but every time we lose most people say we are improving things will change soon.
    The scrum is a joke and we are always on the back foot.
    Coaches are assessed on their results and I am afraid our coaching staff and managers results are awful.
    We will lose to Ireland and 50/50 against Italy even if we do
    scrape a win against Italy 3 wins out of 15 6 Nations matches is
    a disgrace.
    Lets have a new management team now.

  12. Dodge on

    Lots of valid points above.
    Yes Wayne Barnes gave us nothing, I could only laugh when Swarezshi launched himself into a ruck like a scud missle, let alone being off his feet, with Barnes looking on but it took the lines man to flag the foul and only after he waited an age for Barnes to whistle. That was one of many.
    Good points were a redemption for De Luca (I’m still not a fan, but well done), Hogg’s open play running, Rennie’s turnover ability and Ford’s running.
    Bad points were Jacobsen who is really becomimg a liability, Laidlaw’s size is clearly being targeted by the opposition and we still don’t seem able to have players in support when someone breaks.
    The injury substitutions also did not help but that’s part and parcel of the game I suppose.
    Finally credit to the Murrayfield crowd. I thought that was the best atmosphere I have experienced in quite some time.

  13. Cameron Black on

    Against Wales and England we didn’t commit men to the breakdown. This isn’t unusual in the modern game and as we managed to close the ball off neither opposition side tried to compete.

    France came with the intention of competing hard at the breakdown – That’s why the forwards weren’t anywhere near – They were in the attacking line. This is the reason why we managed to break through the French defence but it’s also the reason why France turned us over. In trying to play expansive attacking rugby you have to take some risks and unfortunately on this occasion it cost us but on other occasions it’ll work.

    The key issue is that in the 2nd half it wasn’t addressed and that’s a worry but on the other hand maybe Scotland just decided to play their game. The stats show less French turnovers than I remember.

    I think we need to look at more than the results. In every game so far the stats in terms of tackles broken, numbers of passes and numbers of opposition tackles made we’ve made real progress. The rugby we’re playing now is much more preferable to that under Frank Hadden and definitely better than under Matt Williams. All those calling for Andy Robinson’s head might want to take a look around at who else is available. There’s not even a queue of folk lining up for the England job so who’d want to take on Scotland?

    In terms of Laidlaw v Weir v Jackson, I thought Laidlaw did great in attack again on Sunday but again lacked physicality in defence but I’m sure he’ll learn to adapt. His scrum half abilities are a bonus rather than a weakness and I think it validates Fraser’s views from a few weeks back (http://www.scottishrugbyblog.co.uk/2012/01/9s-and-10s-learning-from-the-french/). Still some question over his kicking range mind.

    Weir was perfectly adequate when he came on but lacked the impact Laidlaw had when he came on against England. I’m not ruling him out altogether but I’m just not sure he’s the answer. Just because you’re a good club player doesn’t mean you’ll make a great international player – just look at Andy Goode.

    I hope Jackson gets a chance to run out this term. I like what he’s done in a Scotland jersey so far and it’d be a shame to see him fade altogether like “world-class” Phil. As I’ve said before it’s great to see some competition for places in the squad. It’s not a problem we’ve had in the past and it’s not a bad problem to have.

    Thought Wayne Barnes was crap mind.

  14. Elle Gee on

    What is it with restarts? George North took more in one half than the Scotland team have done collectively for 2 years. Allied to a lack of basic skills such as passing and you are in trouble before the whistle goes. Long long way to go.

    • Cameron Black on

      I think saying players lack “basic skills” is a bit of a misnomer. Players at international level have the basic skills otherwise they would never have made it anywhere near a professional set up let alone made it into an international side.

      It’s all in the accuracy, execution and communication between players. I spotted a couple of beautiful pop passes and even (I think) a couple Sonny Bill style backhand passes too. Crucially players were passing just before contact, rather than keeping hold of it and that’s how line breaks are made.

      Totally disagree that there’s a long way to go. We’re talking fine margins here. A little bit more compsure and we’ll get it.

      All the press coming out of the French camp is how well we played. The only person within rugby at the moment who’s all doom and gloom about our future prospects is Guscott and nothing he says carries any validity after being seen in that scarf (even Brian Moore thinks we’re making good progress)

  15. observer on

    I thought young Weir did well for his first outing, the main problem was the slow ball from Cus! I just wish he would stop complaining at the Ref and move the ball.

    Someone said I think on another thread that Weir was not great on the front foot, who would be with that service? The game he played for the ‘A’s we saw a different player as the ball was moving so quick.

    • Angus on

      Long term – interesting concept and one that as Scots we have a great affinity with especially when it looks unlikely we will continue to do any good in the “short term”

      Making progress, improving, a lot of positives – all great things and as soon as they award trophies and movements in world rankings based upon them I will be a very happy man

      In the meantime though, while they continue to measure wins and losses based upon points scored v those conceded can anyone tell me exactly how long defeats in the “short term” are going to have to be endured regardless of what rose coloured glasses permit people to see in fragmented areas of the game that “wining” sides also exhibit but at the same time they score more points than the opposition and WIN games

      Yes we are seeing improvements I acknowledge that and am grateful for them but at what cost – 3 years of defeats including a woeful world cup (due pretty well entirely to bad tactics) and where do wee find ourselves in the world rankings? 11th – lower than 4 years ago and we about to be seeded as a third string side in the draw for the next world cup.

      So in the light of that can someone just remind me of the progress and improvements we are making as we slip further down the rankings – hell even Australia won’t play us on a Saturday any more and anticipate putting their B team out against us on Wed while their A team prepares for Wales on the Sat

      Bottom line is results and we won’t achieve them until we show subtlety and variation in attack within a single game – 2 things that have been sorely lacking for a long time

  16. Cameron NZ on

    Well done Dodge, Jacobsen is the biggest liability in that team. He cost Scotland at least 9 points. His scrumming is average. He cant run with the ball properly. Does he know someone in management or something? to stay in the team for this long. He should have gone with Parks. Barnes is a useless ref, but he did’nt cost Scotland the game. Simple mistakes did and the scrum. Hogg was great, I’m from NZ, surely you must have more players like him in Scotland.
    Please get rid of the coaching staff. Their record is hurrendous!
    Get some NZ coach in there before its to late and we end up down the ladder.

  17. Borderer on

    Much better performance from Scotland and great to see the young players coming through. Our support play is still not good enough and we need to get more ruthless when given a chance in attack, we had plenty on Sunday. The top teams get there in numbers whenever they are given the slightest opportunity.
    Agree with the comments about Jacobsen, he’s often off the pace and gives away far too many penalties. I would stick with Weir at stand-off, he looked quite comfortable there behind slow ball. Blair is back in form and is a must if fit, with Laidlaw on the bench to cover scrum half.

  18. uselessborderer on

    Great to read the comments – Andy K thinks Edin + Glasgow compete favourably with the likes of Gloucester, I know who needs the tablets!!! Especially if you think Gray is worth £300K p.a. at Sale.
    Our Scrums cause real concern because a number of you have highlighted problems in the front row but what about the “Nancy’s ” in the second row – do they lean or push???
    Basics – missed tackles; poor passing and dropped passes; lack of technical nous; poor levels of accuracy and execution – we did have 2 good pop-passes in the whole 80 minutes – NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL PROGRESS!!!!!!!!!!!! We need the composure tablets and have we checked with other rugby playing nations how we acquire them!!
    No trophies but lots of “Man of the Match” awards – we are forgetting that it takes 15 men to win the game not a singular person, or am i mistaking about this wonderful game?
    Other excuses – injury substitutions – so – did the French subs upset their style of play, I think not. Szarzewski – of his feet and diving across get the “Jessie’s and Nancy’s” in the second row to sort him out and make sure he does not cross the gain line again. Its a competitive this rugby but it takes two to make it really competitive – stand up boys!! Do you recall Rougerie’s involvement in the first French try he took out Morrison without a bye your leave – don’t just admire it do something about it.
    Cameron sagely tells us about the Scottish approach to attacking flair – the forwards are out in the way of the backs – what does he know that we have all been missing.
    Sorry guys we need to WIN and have a winning mentality not the losing mentality that we were an honourable second third fourth or fifth which most of you seem to think is acceptable. Take a good look at winning teams and I mean teams and see how they operate so differently to the Scottish XV.
    I pray for some success against Ireland – please God help us in our hour of need.

    • Cameron Black on

      The point I was making is that teams don’t tend to commit bodies at the breakdown anymore. Look at Wales and New Zealand and in a ruck there’ll be just 3 or 4 bodies there. The bodies aren’t necessarily forwards either. Again, you look at those teams and the backs and forwards are interchangeable. Backs are big and forwards have to be quick on their feet.

      France were just a little bit more smarter with their tactics on Sunday and I don’t think that’s something that could be anticipated. I think we’d all agree that they got a lot of leeway from Wayne Barnes too. Now we’ve been exposed in this way it’s something that’ll be worked on. That doesn’t mean committing more bodies it just means playing a bit smarter.

    • The Pigeon on

      Gloucester have been an average English team for a few years now. The Scotland players around Hamilton would get in their team week in week out ahead of those currently playing. Richie Gray isnt getting paid £300k at Sale, he turned that down to join Sale…

  19. uselessborderer on

    How lovely it must be for Cameron ; Andy K and The Pigeon coming up with the above points but all of you still don’t seem to appreciate that it’s a team game. 15 players march on the field and hopefully 15 march off. Individually all the players Andy talks about are “good” but do they form part of a better and more importantly a winning team. A team is about picking people with complimentary skills to achieve an objective not 15 individuals.
    Cameron has highlighted our complete lack of streetwise rugby – we could never have anticipated the French tactic of being smarter than us – get real. Don’t blame the ref play to the way he’s seeing the game, that now is street wise, don’t you think.
    Lastly I agree with Cameron to a certain extent that both forwards and backs should be committed to rucks but perhaps Greig Laidlaw and other “wee yins” might disagree. We need the heavies to do their duty and try and leave the backs to do theirs.
    Great speaking to you and I forecast the “wooden spoon” for Scotland and as we are out of the Top Ten rugby nations in the world we can only get better – please let us have a miracle because I do not see that Tonga & Samoa are better than us. Or perhaps they realise from their limited resources they understand that it is a team game!!!!!!!!!

  20. uselessborderer on

    Speaking to a business colleague today, whose son is part of the Scottish XV – I thought you might be interested in her comments to me. She said that the team, including her son, got an absolute bollocking from AR and the rest of the coaching team for the complete and utter lack of a team performance. Great individuals but unfortunately lacking the pre-requisites to form a cohesive and winning team. The Chairman of the RFU was interviewed on Radio 5 tonight and he talked about getting a manager who could inspire the team and adopt a team ethos to bring about a WINNING and COMPETITIVE formula to garner success. Let’s hope we bring out our best 15 team players against Ireland, otherwise…………………………..

    • Andy K on

      Gloucester looking like a really solid team unit this afternoon……as they take it right up the Rangers end from Leicester!!

  21. Borderman on

    I suspected as uselessborderer said above that all was not well with AR and his coaches as I said earlier . The body language is not close . See Warren Gatland, he is in close with his coaches.
    They, after all select the side and should not be bollocking the players at this level. Especially young players !! Perhaps we need Sean Lineen to come in and give the players the confidence he always seems to have in abundance. Its confidence that will make all the difference with improved performances and certainly not getting a bollocking from the boss!
    I also agree with the consensus that Laidlaw is best at no.9 and Weir should come in at no.10

  22. Kev on

    AR did not lose the match against France,,,the players did. In fact 2 of the players we’ve all lauded about missed tackles that resulted in French tries. Grow up, stop the negativity about Robinson and support the whole team.

    • Cameron NZ on

      Good coaches win matches, thats a fact. When your team does’nt win at this rate and performs like they did in the world cup with idiotic decision making, it has to do with coach, otherwise they would’nt keep making the same mistakes. Its not negativity, its frustration.

    • Angus on

      Seconded – and the frustration grows every time we have to watch players try to execute flawed or apparently non existent game plans

      How badly do we have to do before it becomes the coach’s fault?

      Anyone care to compare his win loss against the the last 4 coaches? I have no idea how that would stack up but am certainly interested

      Mind you it does appear that after the world cup fiasco he has done away with forwards running off the 10 from 10 yards behind the gain line and failing to make the gain line by 5 yards each time and hopefully also the littering of the back line with tight forwards who appeared to have as much idea what they were doing there as I did

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