Error-prone Scotland hands France the win
NATIONS CUP REPORT: Virimi Vakatawa scored the only try of the match as France beat Scotland 22-15 in a year-end Nations Cup international at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Victory saw France gain revenge for a 17-28 defeat in Edinburgh in March – Les Bleus’ only loss this year – as they stopped Scotland from recording a sixth successive win.
The win left France top of Pool B and on course for a place in the showpiece match of next month’s Nations Cup finals weekend.
* As it happened. To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
A tryless first half ended all square at 12-all.
But Vakatawa’s well-worked try soon after the break saw France pull clear at 19-12.
France fullback Thomas Ramos kicked four penalties and a conversion, with Matthieu Jalibert’s drop-goal their other score.
All of Scotland’s points came from five Duncan Weir penalties.
France went ahead through Ramos’ third-minute penalty.
Vakatawa was then denied a try from Gael Fickou’s kick after he was ruled not to have controlled the ball.
France already had a penalty and Ramos made it 6-0 before French infringements allowed fly-half Weir to tie the game.
But Jalibert, playing in place of injured first-choice fly-half Romain Ntamack, landed a well-taken drop-goal, an increasingly rare score in Test rugby.
A penalty exchange left France 12-9 ahead before more French indiscipline allowed Weir, from 42 metres, to land his fourth successful goal-kick.
France hooker Camille Chat was cleared of leading with the elbow and then helped his side win a scrum penalty which, at the urging of coach Fabien Galthie and with 40 minutes on the clock, they kicked for a line-out in the hope of a try rather than take the three points on offer.
But from an ensuing driving maul, France was held up over the try-line as the teams turned round level at 12-all.
France, however, did have a try just two minutes into the second half.
From a scrum, Vincent Rattez came off his wing to take an inside ball and burst clear.
Rattez then found Vakatawa, who held off a despairing effort from Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, with the fullback unable to prevent the powerhouse centre from grounding the ball for a try converted by Ramos.
Weir, however, kept Scotland in the game with a fifth penalty.
France squandered a potential second try when Vakatawa cut inside rather than exploit an overlap before Fickou was held up short of the line.
But France’s powerful rolling maul was proving increasingly difficult for Scotland to combat and it produced a penalty.
Ramos made it five-from-five from the tee and France were 22-15 ahead heading into the final quarter.
Scotland, however, botched a close-range line-out but Ramos’s long-range penalty six minutes from time fell short as a nervous France struggled to put the result beyond doubt.
With 80 minutes on the clock, Scotland still had a chance to draw level but Hogg, attempting to set up a Scotland line-out in the hope of an equalising converted try, kicked a penalty dead rather than into touch.
Man of the match: The error rate of the key players is what cost Scotland – Stuart Hogg’s missed touch finder after the hooter and Duncan Weir, who made all his tackles, but conceded some silly penalties at crucial stages. The Scottish forwards can hold their head high – Oliver Kebble (with 12 tackles), Matt Fagerson (10 tackles and 70 metres from 14 carries) and Hamish Watson (13 tackles). You can look at the entire French pack for their hard work. Top of the pile is hooker Camille Chat (nine carries, made all his tackles and won a crucial turnover) and prop Demba Bamba (a handful of carries and nine tackles). The backs had a feast behind this pack – Matthieu Jalibert and Antoine Dupont dictating terms. Our award goes to powerful French centre Virimi Vakatawa – 90-odd metres from eight carries and scored the match-winning try – the only five-pointer in the game.
Moment of the match: We can look at the Matthieu Jalibert drop-goal in the 23rd minute. However, the match-winning try by France centre Virimi Vakatawa just after half-time gave France a clear advantage on the scoreboard which Scotland was never able to close. It was a great team try that won the game.
Villain: No villains in this match, unless you want to apportion blame on some Scottish players for silly mistakes.
Pens: Weir 5
Pens: Ramos 4
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Blair Kinghorn, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Sean Maitland.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Bernard Le Roux, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros.
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Cameron Woki, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Arhtur Vincent
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
- Additional reporting by @rugby365com