Scotland Under-20 8-8 France Under-20

Scotland under-20 were left disappointed with an 8-8 draw after they missed the chance to record an historic 6 Nations victory over France at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium tonight.

A French score after just three minutes struck fear into the 3000 supporters who turned out to see some of the northern hemisphere’s top young talent, however the Scots manned up, equalised in the first-half and dominated the second to ensure a nail-biting end to the international encounter.

Despite the Scots’ second-half supremacy, a kick-a-piece after the interval kept the sides level-pegged until the final whistle

A captain's performance from man of the match McInally
Scotland under-20 were left disappointed with an 8-8 draw after they missed the chance to record an historic 6 Nations victory over France at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium tonight.

A French score after just three minutes struck fear into the 3000 supporters who turned out to see some of the northern hemisphere’s top young talent, however the Scots manned up, equalised in the first-half and dominated the second to ensure a nail-biting end to the international encounter.

Despite the Scots’ second-half supremacy, a kick-a-piece after the interval kept the sides level-pegged until the final whistle.

Scotland under-20 head coach, Eamon John, said: “I’m disappointed. I thought the game was there for the taking. We started a little nervously but in the second-half played a lot more rugby and took our game to them.

“We picked up the tempo and entertained the crowd with some good rugby. I’m sure the crowd was really pleased with what they saw but we should have gone on and got the win.”

It was evidently a nervous start for the Scots and panic struck right from kick-off when lock Robert Harley spilled the ball backwards, putting the Scots under immense pressure as the French piled in.

The visitors gained and retained possession deep in the Scottish half, repeatedly picked at the base of the ruck, before sending the ball to the far touchline where the space created by the pick and goes allowed Toulon wing Jeremy Sinzelle to sprint the last remaining yards to cross the whitewash.

Perpignan stand-off Gilles Bosch did not have the distance in his kick from out wide, 0-5.

From their the French centres Romain Barthelemy (Toulon) and Remi Lamerat (Toulouse) were fed good ball and hit up hard from deep, with the Scots defending doggedly to keep them at bay.

Sterling defensive efforts brought confidence in the Scots and minute by minute they grew into the match and battled the French deep into their own half until the half-hour mark when the team was struck by the loss of lock, Grant Gilchrist (Stirling County), with a shin injury.

The early disappointment was quickly put to rest as replacement Matthew Reid (Heriot’s) took his place in the pack and matched his colleagues’ efforts to continue Scotland’s resurgence into the French half and earning two back-to-back penalties 10 metres inside opposition territory.

Stand-off Alex Blair struck the first long-range off-centre opportunity hard and low and, while it easily had the distance, it was just wide of the mark.

The second equidistant yet more direct kick was taken by wing Oliver Grove and while this effort was on target it was without distance.

It was then, one minute from the interval, that French lock Jean Sousa picked up a yellow card and subsequent sin-binning for being repeatedly offside at the ruck – a sense that this was Scotland’s chance to capitalise on their improving position boomed around the ground.

To the delight of the home support, they did just that.

Returning after the break the Scots were a changed outfit, hell-bent on capitlising on the extra man.

After three minutes of play, Scotland shifted the ball blind to Grove who raced into the French 22, took on his opposite man and offered the pop around the back and inside to the supporting prop Craig Owenson (Heriot’s) who crashed into the French.

Jonny Kennedy ran well throughout
A clean recycle allowed Scotland to fire the ball into Blair who lobbed a perfectly timed miss-pass over a retreating Frenchman. The stand-off then looped round the receiver to collect the ball once more and cross for the equalising try, though he could not convert his own score, 5-5.

The French then had two opportunities to kick their way back into the lead but – like the Scots’ earlier attempts – they were wide and short.

It was from here that Scotland really started to earn the belief of the crowd, dominating the French, keeping them hemmed in with much improved urgency and aggression – in particular from back-row Michael Maltman and man of the match number 8, Stuart McInally.

However, a French counter-attack found them in Scotland’s red zone and an adjudged intentional knock-on allowed Barthelemy to make up for his earlier miss kicks to put the visitors back in the lead, 5-8.

With just ten minutes to go, time was against Scotland.

Their ambition and self-belief had earned them the cheers from the crowd but they were yet to capitalise on their second-half dominance until a French intentional knock-on offered them the chance to equalise once more.

Blair stepped up to the plate and sent the ball cleanly between the sticks, 8-8.

Scotland were now all over the French, their second-half resurgence fuelling their belief in their ability to play expansive rugby while pack legs pumped forward, making yards and wrestling out turnovers before Scotland were finally offered a chance to take the win after the visitors were penalised for not rolling away.

Scotland signalled for the kick at goal with little or no time left however, tragically, Blair’s effort on goal was just wide and the game was played out for a draw.

Final score: 8-8

Scotland under-20
Tom Brown (Edinburgh Accies); Oliver Grove (Worcester Warriors), Jonny Kennedy (Sale Sharks), Alex Dunbar (Selkirk), Dougie Fife (Currie); Alex Blair (Edinburgh Accies), Alex Black (Leeds Carnegie); Craig Owenson (Heriot’s), Alun Walker (Currie), Colin Phillips (Stewart’s Melville), Robert Harley (West of Scotland), Grant Gilchrist (Stirling County), Michael Maltman (Heriot’s), Stuart McInally CAPTAIN (Watsonians), David Denton (Edinburgh Accies)

Replacements
Lindsey Gibson (Melrose) on for Owenson, George Hunter (Glasgow Hawks) on for Philips, Matthew Reid (Heriot’s) of for Gilchrist, Callum Stidston-Nott (London Scottish), Kris Hamilton (Caithness) on for Black, Matthew Scott (Currie), James Johnstone (Currie)*

France under-20
Brice Dulin (Agen); Sinzelle Jeremy (Toulon), Remi Lamérat (Toulous), Romain Barthélémy (Touon), Clement Lagain (Bayonne); Gillies Bosch, Alexis Bales (Agen); Kevin Gourdon (Clermont Auvergne), Tanguy Molcard CAPTAIN (Biarritz), Antoinned Erbani (Agen), Georges Souvent (Stade Rochelais), Jean Sousa (Lyon), Mathieu Giudicelli (Montpellier), Mickael Ivaldi (Toulon), Eddy Ben Arous (Racing Metro)

Substitutes
Benjamin Geledan (Biarritz), Gwendal Lamache (Toulon), Mickael Blondin (Bourgoin), Josselin Grange (Lyon), Guillaume Lafforgue (Bordeaux), Alexandre Hubert (Limognes), Julien Fritz (Lyon)

Referee: Alan Falzone (FIR)