Barclay | Fitness and composure paid dividends

Captain John Barclay admitted there was a sense of relief amidst the jubilation from the Scotland squad as the final whistle signalled the end of a dramatic NatWest 6 Nations match against France at BT Murrayfield yesterday.

The Scots had trailed for the first 65 minutes of the match, repeatedly conceding and then hitting back to close the gap in the first-half to stay in contention, however two French penalties gave them some breathing space at the break (14-20).

In the second-half, however, French infringements saw the penalties-goaled count favour the hosts with scrum-half Greig Laidlaw bisecting four times to France's two, to pull level (26-26).

It was at this point that Barclay felt that the fitness and commitment from the Scots was telling, as the hosts - bolstered by critical performances from replacements Ali Price, Jamie Bhatti, Ben Toolis and David Denton - carried hard into their opponents and secured two further penalties on the 71st and 77th minute, which Laidlaw duly struck to the seal the win.

Barclay said: "There was a fair bit of relief actually. Everyone was so pleased to get a victory against a really good French side.

"In the second half I think you see the effect of playing at tempo, getting bodies to the breakdown.

"They [your opponent] has to be accurate and the fitness tells. They [France] started conceding a lot of penalties.

"The officials wanted a clean ruck and it was getting messy.

"The longer-term picture is that teams tire and competing for the ball is very tiring and I think we saw that. As they tired they got a little bit sloppy and that was the product of the tempo were trying to play at.

"Over the last two years in the closing stages we’ve been quite accurate. We know the calls you’ve got to call and how to play it.

"On the whole we made the right decisions in the closing period so I think we managed it very well in that aspect."

The Scotland squad now go into the first fallow week in the championship, returning to face an unbeaten England side at BT Murrayfield in just under a fortnight's time (Saturday 24 February, kick-off 4.45pm) - live on BBC.

Barclay added: "We didn’t become a dreadful team just because of the Wales game.

"That’s maybe why we’re relieved. We’re obviously delighted for the fans who’ve put a lot of faith in the group and who come out and watch us and I’m sure to put some points on the board is rewarding for them as well.

"Now we have a week off and build towards the next one."