Van der Merwe double hands title to Wales
SIX NATIONS MATCH REPORT: South African-born wing Duhan van der Merwe scored a double as Scotland beat France to hand Wales the title.
The teams scored three tries each, but Scotland won 27-23 when Van der Merwe scored the second of his two try in additional time.
France needed to beat the Scots by 21 points and score four tries in the final match of the tournament to have any hope of denying Wales a sixth title since 2005.
Friday’s match had been rescheduled after a COVID-19 outbreak in the French camp caused a postponement in February.
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Both teams finished with 14 men after Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell was sent off with 10 minutes to play and French substitute Baptiste Serin collected a yellow card three minutes later.
Home coach Fabien Galthie made five changes from last Saturday’s last-gasp win over Wales, which dashed the away side’s Grand Slam hopes, as flyhalf Romain Ntamack and lock Bernard Le Roux returned from injuries.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend was without No.8 Zander Fagerson, as he withdrew on the eve of the game with an ankle injury and Nick Haining started in the back row.
As the rain fell at the Stade de France, Dulin showed his side’s intent by taking a quick line-out inside his own five metres within 60 seconds.
After nine minutes Romain Ntamack opened the scoring with a penalty but the away side dominated the following quarter of an hour.
The visitors’ control and patience were rewarded after 15 minutes as van der Merwe snuck over after two previous pick-and-goes.
Finn Russell converted before adding a penalty for a 10-3 lead after 20 minutes as Townsend’s men intelligently controlled territory with delicate kicks while France made five early handling errors in greasy conditions.
When the downpour briefly stopped, Galthie’s men took a stranglehold.
Ntamack closed the gap to four points with a penalty before the hosts took the lead.
After a fourth scrum inside Scotland territory, Antoine Dupont found Damian Penaud on the right wing. He passed inside to Dulin who slid over.
Ntamack slotted the additional points to make it 13-10 before things worsened for Scotland when captain Stuart Hogg was shown a yellow card for a ruck infringement.
France started the second half superbly and made the most of the extra man as the rain stopped again.
Their pressure paid after 46 minutes as Penaud scored a fine individual effort after a chip and chase and a lovely Virimi Vakatawa offload.
Hogg returned as Russell closed the gap to five points with a penalty after 53 minutes before the visitors camped inside France territory with the clock ticking towards a Wales title win.
Les Bleus hopes of a title took a blow with a quarter of the match left as replacement hooker Dave Cherry dived over from a rolling maul for a third try in five Tests.
Russell was successful with a difficult conversion and Scotland led 20-18 before momentum swung back in France’s favour.
Ntamack found touch deep in Scottish territory before Swan Rebbadj opened his international account, driving over from tight phase play.
Ntamack missed the conversion making it 23-20 to the home side with a quarter of an hour left.
They still needed a fourth try and 18 points in the final 10 minutes but seemed to have been given a hand when Russell, who plays his club rugby with Paris’ Racing 92, shoved his elbow into Dulin’s neck trying to fend off the French fullback and received a red card.
But Les Bleus were reduced to 14 shortly after when replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Serin was shown a yellow card two minutes after coming on.
Scotland finished the strongest and capped off a gutsy display with van der Merwe claiming his second try sending his side fourth in the table.
Man of the match: Romain Ntamack and Brice Dulin had their moments. Charles Ollivon put in a big shift and Anthony Jelonch was France’s most productive forward. Duhan van der Merwe scored two tries, including the match-winning effort at the end. Hamish Watson was a colossus, as always. Our award goes to Scotland flank Jamie Ritchie, who was his team’s most productive defender and equally effective at the breakdown.
Moment of the match: The Finn Russell red card in the 71st minute had the potential to turn the game on its head and the Baptiste Serin yellow card three minutes later proved to be an equaliser. However, the Duhan van der Merwe try six minutes into additional time was the most critical – a match-winning score that wins our award.
Villain: It was physical and brutal, but only one really nasty incident – the Finn Russell elbow to the throat of an opponent that justifiably earned him a red card in the 71st minute.
Tries: Dulin, Penaud, Rebbadj
Pens: Ntamack 2
Tries: Van der Merwe 2, Cherry
Cons: Russell 2, Hastings
Pens: Russell 2
Red card: Finn Russell (Scotland, 71 – foul play, elbow to the throat)
Yellow cards: Stuart Hogg (Scotland, 40 – repeated infringements, on the wrong side at the tackle), Baptiste Serin (France, 74 – cynical foul, offside at maul)
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 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 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Swann Rebbadj, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julian Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Anthony Bouthier, 23 Teddy Thomas
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Huw Jones.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referee: Matthew Carley (England) & Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)