Scotland’s under-20 side are still seeking their first win in this years RBS 6 Nations championship after defeat to France at Netherdale, but head coach Peter Wright says he has seen a big improvement in performance over their first three games.
Up against another powerful, physical team at under-20 level, Scotland lost out 21-30 in front of 1500 in Galashiels but they were sharp in attack and often looked the more threatening of the two teams.
“We didn’t get enough ball at the start of each half but when we did get it, we were very, very good. You’ve got to take the positives. What we’ve been working on in training and talking about is happening out on the pitch and that’s a great sign but on one or two occasions it was just individual execution, going high instead of low in the tackle meant they could offload which they’re very good at.”
Scotland were forced into two try saving tackles in the opening ten minutes, one grasping effort by Loughborough prop Alex Allan all but stopping a certain score.
Scotland were able to open up the French defences when they won clean, quick ball, the impressive George Turner forcing an opening himself with a barracking run under the noses of the home crowd.
But it was the French who opened the scoring as the Scotland scrum was penalised and Ecochard, the French scrum-half converted.
After 22 minutes the French thought they’d scored when centre Fuster piled through tackles but the Italian referee deemed he was held up over the line.
Just a minute later though the French did extend their lead when man of the match no.8 and captain, Chateau, piled through the defence from the base of a ruck. Ecochard sliced the conversion wide of the uprights.
Scotland came back strongly though and a slick move from the base of a ruck saw Hidalgo-Clyne feed Crawley but the Boroughmuir winger was held up just short of the line.
A quick lineout by Jamie Swanson, allowed 17 year old Jamie Farndale a half chance through a gap in midfield and France were penalised at the ensuing ruck, an easy three point score for Leonard in front of the posts.
Scotland’s tails were up and they were keen to run at their opponents and looked more comfortable than the visitors with ball in hands.
Route one is often the most effective as it proved with the French second try. Abrasive centre Danty taking a short pass on a good line and simply smashing through his tackler. The conversion made by Ecochard to give the visiting side a 15-6 lead.
The wind was taken from the Scots when the defence fell off three more tackles in the midfield and winger Domvo raced home from inside the 10 metre line.
But Scotland weren’t done for the half. With their running game able to create space, Harry Leonard threatened to move it wide but instead stepped inside the tackle and, as he was downed five yards out, slipped the pass to the supporting Adam Sinclair who finished beneath the posts.
France under-20 leading 22-13 at half-time.
The French side came out strong in the second half and had several stages of concerted pressure inside the Scottish 22. The scrum, a source of strength for the visitors throughout, forced a penalty and choosing to pack down again, they worked a back row move from five metres out which led to Placines, the blind side flanker, touching down for their fourth score of the night.
Scotland were reduced to 14 men when Stirling County’s Sinclair was shown the yellow card for taking out the French stand-off after a clearing kick but it was to be no hindrance to Scotland’s attacking intent.
Edinburgh’s Harry Leonard, who had a good night with the boot, slotted another penalty and Scotland were within two converted scores.
A clearly tiring France side were stretched across the pitch and though Swanson was stopped just inches short, quickly recycled ball fed sevens specialist Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and the full back stepped inside two defenders to touch down to narrow the French lead, 21-27 after 62 minutes.
It was a game that had developed an edge as Scotland put real pressure on the favourites, the referee having to step in on a number of occasions as tensions threatened to boil over between the two sides.
With just six points in it, the Netherdale crowd could sense an upset. Mitch Eadie pinched an interception and saw the whole pitch open up in front of him for what would have been a remarkable breakaway try only to hear the referee’s whistle and a see a French penalty just outside the Scotland 22.
Ecochard cooly knocked over the penalty and give the visitors an unassailable 9 point lead with just a few minutes remaining.