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France 23 – 16 Scotland

Scotland came into this match with nothing to lose. So long as they avoided a huge loss third place was theirs. The French on the other hand were desperate to avoid la cuillère en bois (although they would argue that a team has to lose all its matches to win the wooden spoon).

Despite this Scotland ended the first half in the lead taking six points through Grieg Laidlaw and preventing France from scoring. It wasn’t all straightforward. Scotland had to survive a series of assaults inches from their line and only the chest of Johnnie Beattie prevented a try.  The lineout was a mess for both sides although the French got the upperhand in the scrum with some help from the turf which had the structural integrity of wet cake.

However this was no repeat of the Ireland match. Scotland had their chances with Max Evans, on for an injured Sean Maitland, going close and showing awareness and skill most had forgotten he had. But the first half performance was largely down to the work of the back row and Duncan Weir’s boot. Johnnie Beattie showed intent early on by smashing Bastareaud back a good few yards and Kelly Brown was a constant menace in the ruck. France left the pitch to jeers from their own fans.    

Scotland struggled to win any decent ball at the start of the second half and the repeated assaults of the first half had taken their toll on the defence as France were gifted a series of penalties all kicked by Frédéric Michalak. However just before the first penalty something happened off the ball that changed the match.

Up until the 44th minute Michalak had been playing on a different level to the rest of the French team. Like a highly evolved Space baby he seemed to be thinking in four dimensions. He popped to no one, ran without support and kicked into space only he could envisage in his advanced frontal lobe. Then he clattered Stuart Hogg in the back of the head with his arm. Neither Nigel Owens nor the nearest touch judge spotted it. Television replays were damning and it’s likely he’ll be cited and will almost certainly face a ban. He should have been sent from the pitch. Not just for 10 minutes but for the rest of the match. When Owens caught up with the action Hogg and Michalak were grappling with the Frenchman still visibly throwing jabs.

Whether it was the rush of adrenaline or being brought back to Earth the incident seemed to trigger something within Michalak and suddenly things started happening for him. Within a short period France were ahead and although Laidlaw pulled Scotland level it was only a matter of time before France crossed the try line. They did so twice.

Hogg was culpable for the first try bouncing off Fofana as he snuck down the blindside and crossed for the score. However Hogg might be forgiven having earlier felled all 19 stones of a rampaging Vincent Debaty where others, most notably Euan Murray, had failed.

Scotland had marshalled the physical threat of Bastareaud well for most of the match but as the game broke up he found space and rumbled through the Scottish line before being brought down by Lamont but the ball was worked to Medard for the try.

Scotland rallied with Jackson spilling with the line in sight and a sea of blue jerseys in support. Eventually it was Matt Scott who made the break, expertly resisting the urge to pass until the last minute sending Tim Visser in under the posts.

The game as a whole seemed to encapsulate Scotland’s 6 Nations campaign. There were long periods of strong gritty defence, flashes of flair and a try. However there were also missed tackles, silly penalties conceded and an occasional lack of composure. Plus ça change?

8 Responses

  1. Plus ca change right enough. Still far too lethargic at the breakdown. Slow ball not allowing us to be anywhere near incisive enough. Even when we do get quick ball we look one dimensional and predictable. Yes we have improved but we still have a hell of a lot of work to do before we are consistently competitive. Oh, an extra Pro team and a complete revamp of the old boy network in the SRU is so overdue it’s gone beyond the pale. Still there are some green shoots there…

  2. Almost a great six nations but just came up short . We have brought some consistency to selection players allowed to settle into positions. The back three are there to stay, injuries permitting, SA will be an opportunity to find a replacement for Lamont, Scott looks the part. Weir, in my opinion , is the better choice for 10 although Heathcote deserves a chance. Laidlaw is above any other scrum-half problem is who is his back-up? Grant has performed well and Low is a good back-up MacArthur should be taken on tour with Hall. Cross or Low or Welsh should replace Murray although Murray did have a good tournament. Hamilton and a fit Gray are a shoe in but Gilchrist showed enough to warrant inclusion. The back row could be the problem but Brown and Beattie were really good but room needs to be found for Rennie and or Fusaro. We have come out the other end of this championship in a better place than when we started it. Now we just Glasgow to qualify for the Rabo final and the Sevens squad to retain core status and this season could be counted as a relatively successful one.

  3. I’ll probably be slated but I’m not the only one out of my group who thinks the main problem is Laidlaw at SH. We were a different team with Pyrgos on and there is no other SH playing at international level who never makes a break and who turns all ball in to slow ball. With our back 3 I think we should be playing in the same style as Glasgow and Laidlaw doesn’t fit with that. When Blair and Cusitet were fit they were everywhere and incredibly important in defence. I though Strokosch did well and though I rate Brown and Harley I don’t think you can have both playing at the same time. We really miss Rennie.

  4. I would agree re. laidlaw , thought he had a poor game on Saturday and the French seemed to target him. He was bounced out the way a few times similar to last season when he was at 10.
    Has Cusiter got anything left in the tank ? and is Pyrgos a viable alternative? The backs look fairly strong in a lot of positions with 9. and 13. needing upgrades and 10. a battle between Weir and Heathcote.
    Hopefully we will see the likes of Bennett , Dunbar and Horne get a chance over the next 12 months.

  5. Take points made about Laidlaw but opportunities to turn defence into attack were few and far between. Forgot about Pyrgos and I am a Glasgow supporter!! Sean Kennedy is one to keep an eye on if he can get some game time considering he has Pyrgos and Matawalu to contend with but certainly tries to keep the attacks going when he plays.

  6. Ok here are my stats for the first half – Scotland had the ball 32 times from Scrum, lineout, ruck or maul (not including when a forward picked and drove) Of the 32, 13 were passed to a forward, 11 were kicked by 9 and 8 passed to a back – So far that shows any kind of game that involved moving the ball and point of attack was not on the cards

    Of the 8 passes that went to a back 2 were kicked by the first receiver, 4 were run – should note these first receivers who ran were on at least 3 occasions not the 10 but another back who had run on to the ball between 9 and 10. The other 2 were passed by the first receiver to another back and on each occasion the second back went into contact

    That shows a game plan that was designed to not lose and to play for territory and penalties in the hope of gaining points that way. With a back 3 of the attacking quality that we currently have that is just not on and a complete waste of our attacking weapons and in particular our X factor players such as Weir and Maitland.

    32 times we had the ball (not including kick receptions in broken play) and not one attempt to run it through the hands
    The bottom line is that for the 3rd game in a row we went out with no intention of taking on the opposition in an attempt to break through and score tries.

    This is made all the more frustrating by our willingness to attack v Italy and the return it gave us and also the last 10 minutes of this game when all was lost and we moved the ball and made good yards

  7. I think the replacements were brought on too late – not to influence the game but just that the forwards looked out on their feet after 50 minutes. With the kicking to the French backs the chase was subsequently poor (due to the above) and hence the broken play from which the French scored.

    It seems we only attack when we are out of the game (or playing Italy). I am not sure if it is the replacements being more attack minded (Jackson+Pyrgos) or just that they are only brought on when we are totally out of the game!

  8. A couple of points regarding scrum half. Cusiter is going back in for further surgery on his shoulder, which doesn’t sound good. Sean Kennedy is back at Edinburgh and is starting tonight versus Ulster, so looks like he might slot in as 2nd choice behind Laidlaw under the interim regime. I think that a back row of Brown, Beattie, Rennie/Fusaro will bring a lot more balance(and ball) to the team, which would hopefully also be reflected in the way we play in the future.

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