Scotland’s fine run of form comes to a juddering halt with a frustrating loss to France in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Scotland ended a French Grand Slam dream with a three-try victory at BT Murrayfield in what was the last international weekend before Covid-19 shut down the global sporting calendar. Fast forward eight months later, France travelled to Murrayfield once more for round two of the Autumn Nations Cup and this time came out on top with a 22-15 victory.
Head Coach Gregor Townsend named five changes to Scotland’s starting line-up with Oli Kebble making his first start, while Duncan Taylor and Sean Maitland were included on the bench. The Scots went into the game without fear given their excellent form on the pitch and the absence of Romain Ntamack on the French side was an additional bonus. However, the visitors were the first to draw blood when they were awarded a penalty, with Thomas Ramos putting the points on the scoreboard. This was to be a recurring theme throughout, as both sides dished out more penalties than a crowd feeding bread to seagulls. It became apparent that this was to be a battle of the best boot between Ramos and Duncan Weir, who were both excellent at sending the ball through the posts.
France almost scored the first try of the game at the forty-minute mark but were held up, which the teams were level at 12-12 going into the break. This was a positive half-time scoreline for the Scots, who in the past would have allowed their ill-discipline to get the better of them. Was this to be the day of reckoning at last for Townsend’s men?
The second-half saw the visitor’s dominating from the first kick and this rewarded them with the only try of the game. Virimi Vakatawa shrugged off Blair Kinghorn on his way to the try line after only two minutes when he received a neat pass by Vincent Rattez. This early scare did not rattle the hosts, however, as Weir clawed back with his kicking skills to make the score even tighter. Yet, France looked the stronger side – squeezing the Scots with their maul, and stretching them with their back-play. Scotland had to hang on, closer and closer to their own line.
With time quickly running out, the Scots had the chance to grab a draw with four minutes to go - more than once. Duhan van der Merwe pressurised Gael Fickou into conceding a five-metre line-out, which gave the Scots a huge opportunity. However, this chance was quickly ruined and the French thought the game was theirs. Scottish hopes were fading as the clock ticked over 80 minutes, but Vakatawa conceded a penalty and Scotland had one more shot. Captain Stuart Hogg went for touch and immediately kicked it dead instead. Scotland lost their final chance and had to make do with a losing bonus-point.
Statistics showed that Scotland had 54% of possession and 53% of territory in the game. Head Coach Gregor Townsend will be immensely disappointed as Scotland had not lost at home to France since 2014, until now. The hosts will also receive a 28-0 bonus-point victory after their November 28th match versus Fiji was cancelled earlier by tournament organisers. Scotland will have a break and then face Ireland in Dublin for the battle to win third place.
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