France were handed the RBS 6 Nations Championship in Paris this afternoon with a 46-19 win over Scotland at Stade de France. In the tensest of match finishes, France kept the pressure on the Scots to overtake the 24 point margin held by Ireland following their win over Italy earlier in the afternoon.
Scotland opened the match strongly with the first period of play going all their own way. Even the first points on the board were for the visitors - Dan Parks floated a perfect cross kick for Nikki Walker to collect as French fullback Poitrenaud fumbled the high ball.
With that try and Paterson's conversion, it looked from the early sparks as if Scotland may be on course to spoil the French's party but from the first time the home side had any considerable amount of possession and pressure, the final result did not look in doubt.
However, Scotland never took a step back though, even when touch judge Donal Courtney and referee Craig Joubert combined to sin bin the wrong Lamont brother, they fought right to the end, and it wasn't until injury time with the last move of the game that France clinched the Championship.
Scotland's main drives in the first quarter of the game put the French on the back foot but frustrating little errors and knock ons crept in to prevent the final tries being scored.
French dangerman Vincent Clerc made the first of several breaks but Scotland's scramble defence worked back well to protect their line. It was not long though before France overtook Scotland on the scoreboard and added to their earlier penalty with a try from Imanol Harinordoquy who squeezed in under the posts. Beauxis' conversion took them three points ahead of Scotland, a lead that was stretched with their second try of the day- this time from Yannick Jauzion.
Jauzion was on the end of an impressive break from Mignoni who chipped over the Scottish heads and followed it up with a searing run before sending Jauzion in under the posts. France now had the wind in their sails and Scotland's dominance in the opening period had been turned. The Scots seemed to lack penetration until Sean Lamont headed off on one of his trademark breaks. He was supported by Chris Paterson and when Scotland were awarded a penalty, Lamont took the quick tap and headed in under the posts. Paterson's conversion closed the gap to just six points at the half time mark.
However, with France needing to win by a margin of more than 24 points to take the title over Ireland, it was to be a busy second half for the French.
It looked as though Scotland may be the first on the scoresheet in the second half as Chris Paterson was heading for the line but Lamont's pass to him was forward and the "Blues" were called back. It was then a matter for Scotland of stemming the flow of points as France were determined to claim their title plus, the points difference for the Scots may have been important depending on the final game of the day - Wales v England.
Scotland prop Euan Murray helped the Scots to pile up those points when he was on the end of a fine move, sending him in for a well deserved try in the corner but the final move of the game belonged to France when, after the full 80 minutes of play was completed, they kept the ball alive long enough for replacement Vermuelen to sneak in under the pile of bodies to touch the ball over the try line and clinch the deal for France.
Contrary to what the final scoreline may suggest, it was a credible performance from the Scots who can take a lot of positives from the game as they build towards the world cup later this year.
0-5: Nikki Walker try (7 mins)
0-7: Chris Paterson conversion
3-7: Lionel Beauxis penalty (17 mins)
8-7: Harinordoquy try (28 mins)
10-7: Beauxis conversion
15-7: Jauzion try (33mins)
17-7: Beauxis conversion
20-7: Beauxis penalty (37 mins)
20-12: Sean Lamont try (39 mins)
20-14: Chris Paterson conversion
25-14: David Marty try (51 mins)
27-14: Beauxis conversion
32-14: Cedric Heymans try (59 mins)
37-14: Milloud try (62 mins)
39-14: Beauxis conversion
39-19: Euan Murray try (76 mins)
44-19: Elvis Vermuelen try (80 mins)
46-19: Beauxis conversion
Poitrenaud (Traille 74); Clerc (Dominici 77 mins), Marty, Jauzion, Heymans; Beauxis, Mignoni; Milloud, Ibanez, Villiers, Nallet (Pape 55 mins), Thion, Betsen, Bonnaire, Harinordoquy Vermeulen 77 mins).
Bruno, Mas, Pape, Vermeulen, Elissalde, Traille, Dominici.
Paterson; S Lamont, Dewey, Henderson (Di Rollo 77 mins), Walker; Parks (R Lamont 53 mins), Lawson (Cusiter 64 mins); Kerr (Jacobsen 64 mins) , Ford (Hall 64 mins), E Murray, Hines, S Murray (Hamilton 47 mins), Taylor, J Beattie (Callam 53 mins), Hogg.
Hall, Jacobsen, Hamilton, Callam, Cusiter, Di Rollo, R Lamont.