Moment of madness ends French Grand Slam dream
SIX NATIONS MATCH REPORT: A red card to prop Mohamed Haouas late in the first half played a massive role in Scotland’s 28-17 upset win over France in Edinburgh on Sunday.
The three tries to two victory ended France’s dream of a rare Grand Slam and opened the back door for England to win the championship.
Haouas was red-carded in the 37th minute for punching an opponent in a melee near his own tryline – a moment of madness that cost his team dearly.
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Sean Maitland scored twice for Scotland in the upset win.
His tries (in 41st and 45th minutes) both came after French prop Mohamed Haouas was sent off for punching the hosts’ Jamie Ritchie in the 37th minute.
The defeat leaves France alongside England on 13 points at the top of the table but they will not be able to clinch the title next Saturday against Ireland in Paris.
Ireland’s match against Italy, scheduled for Saturday, and England’s trip to Rome next weekend have been postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Sunday’s game at Murrayfield went ahead despite the women’s Six Nations match between the two countries on Saturday in Glasgow being called off after a member of Scotland’s squad tested positive for the virus.
The strength of the swirling wing inside a sold-out Murrayfield was shown within the first three minutes as Romain Ntamack’s long-range penalty effort was pushed wide by the breeze.
Edinburgh’s vocal crowd were up off their feet less than a minute later when visitors’ flanker Francois Cros was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on the hosts’ Grant Gilchrist.
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Things went from bad to worse for Les Bleus after seven minutes as Ntamack dropped a high kick and left the field for a head injury assessment following Sam Johnson’s physical tackle.
Ntamack failed his examinations and was replaced by blonde-haired Matthieu Jalibert.
After the event-filled opening 10 minutes, Scotland flyhalf Hastings opened the scoring with two penalties.
The thousands of French fans rediscovered their voice after an opening half an hour under the cosh as Antoine Dupont spotted Scotland wing Blair Kinghorn rushing up wide out of the defensive line.
In-form Dupont then hit a perfectly delicate cross kick for Damian Penaud and the Clermont wing, who had replaced the dropped Teddy Thomas on the right wing, scored his fifth Test try.
Jalibert was successful with the touchline conversion, his first test from the tee, and Les Bleus led 7-6 after 34 minutes.
Scotland responded by advancing into French territory before a scuffle broke out near the away side’s posts which was sparked by Jamie Ritchie and Les Bleus pair Gael Fickou and Haouas.
The incident was replayed on the two big screens and Scottish fans called for a red card and tight-head prop Haouas was sent off on just his fourth Test appearance.
Hastings reclaimed the advantage with the resulting penalty as the home side led 9-7 with three minutes of the first half to play. Haouas’ absence was felt immediately as Scotland returned to French territory.
Captain Stuart Hogg found centre Johnson out wide who made the most of Jalibert’s poor defensive read and Maitland crossed in the corner.
Hastings missed the difficult conversion but his side led 14-7 at the break
France’s momentum was halted at a ruck under the Scotland posts as Hamish Watson won a penalty for his side as Dupont held onto the ball on the ground.
Watson’s work on the ground ignited Scotland’s flame from just before half-time as a break from Chris Harris ended up with Maitland crossing for his second try of the match after 45 minutes.
Les Bleus’ comeback hopes were short-lived as a rainbow appeared above 95-year-old Murrayfield and substitute hooker Stuart McInally scored his eighth try in 36 Tests as the ball spilt from a line-out that McInally had thrown himself.
Despite a late Charles Ollivon try, the captain’s fourth in as many games, French coach Fabien Galthie’s main worry post-match will be having seen the influential Dupont leave the field with a shoulder injury with four minutes to play.
Man of the match: Antoine Dupont tried to spark the French from scrumhalf and Virimi Vakatawa tested the Scottish defence with his powerful charges. Charles Ollivon and Demba Bamba also made a few powerful charges late in the match. Scrumhalf Ali Price and fullback Stuart Hogg enjoyed the free ride behind a dominant Scottish pack. This was made possible by Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie, Grant Gilchrist, Zander Fagerson, Fraser Brown and Rory Sutherland – all put in massive shifts. Our award goes jointly to flank Hamish Watson and lock Grant Gilchrist – who made a match-high 18 tackles each, to epitomise the determination with which the Scots approached the match.
Moment of the match: This game had plenty of moments – some of them great and some of them controversial. First there was the yellow card to François Cros in the fifth minute – for a dangerous tackle, when video replays suggested Paul Willemse was the culprit. Then Romain Ntamack left the field injured in the eight minute. The biggest and most significant was when French tighthead prop Mohamed Haouas was red-carded in the 37th minute for a punch.
Villain of the match: Without doubt French tighthead prop Mohamed Haouas – who lost control of his senses late in the first half and spent the rest of the match in on the sidelines. He cost his team dearly.
Tries: Maitland 2, McInally
Cons: Hastings 2
Pens: Hastings 3
Tries: Penaud, Ollivon
Cons: Jalibert 2
Red card: Mohamed Haouas (France, 37 – foul play, punching)
Yellow card: François Cros (France, 5 – foul play, dangerous tackle)
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 George Horne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Kyle Steyn.
France: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Matthieu Jalibert, 23 Thomas Ramos.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
* Additional reporting by @rugby365com