Scotland 15 France 22

Scotland’s run of victories was halted by the form team in world rugby, France, at BT Murrayfield this evening.

It was the first time the French had won in Edinburgh since 2014.

The visitors emerged triumphant in a fierce battle, scoring the only try of the match through their bruising centre Virimi Vakatawa.

Scotland had few opportunities inside the French 22 and never looked like breaching their defence through any finesse. Their points came from a maximum return from stand-off Duncan Weir, while the French full-back Thomas Ramos got their penalties and there was a drop-goal from stand-off Jallibert.

Some 259 days since a full house at BT Murrayfield saw Scotland post their fourth successive home victory against France, Les Bleus were back in Edinburgh for their first taste of action in the Autumn Nations Cup.

Scotland had opened their campaign in the hastily conceived competition with a bonus point victory in Florence against Italy last weekend, but France were idle because of the extensive Covid outbreak in the Fiji camp, which has already seen this coming Saturday’s contest between Scotland and Fiji called off.

To all intents and purposes then Scotland were playing to finish top of the group and be in the mix for silverware in the final at Twickenham on 5 December. Sadly, that mission wasn't achieved.

Scotland kicked-off through Stuart Hogg to the railway end of the ground and Antoine Dupont had an early touch for the visitors who also spun ball right through their backs before Duncan Weir found touch.

France rumbled from the first lineout and won a penalty at the breakdown which saw full-back Thomas Ramos give them the lead (0-3, 3 mins).

Scotland shaped promisingly off a Scott Cummings lineout take and Sam Johnson’s aerial skills retrieved possession but to no avail as France were awarded a penalty.

At the other end, Blair Kinghorn looked lively to beat Virimi Vakatawa to a kick ahead in Scotland’s in goal. TMO Ben Whitehouse confirmed the Scot had got their first but it was a mighty close-run thing. Referee Wayne Barnes had been playing an advantage to France and Ramos was on target again (0-6, 9 mins).

Hamish Watson was next to produce defensive heroics downing Vincent Rattez after Hogg had missed a tackle. Watson’s determined pursuit of an attacking kick on the same player, won Scotland their first penalty in the 13th minute.

They opted for the touchline route and Cummings was involved twice, once with the lineout take and then with a typically intelligent thrust before France infringed offside deep in their own 22.

Duncan Weir goaled Scotland’s first points (3-6, 15 mins) and the kicking tee returned four minutes later after Duhan Van Der Merwe had made a pile-driving contribution on the left and France had loitered over long at breakdown. Weir levelled (6-6, 19 mins).

His opposite number Matthieu Jallibert regained the lead for France with a close-range drop-goal (6-9, 22 mins), territory having been set up through a penalty against Scotland near half-way.

The scoreboard ping-pong continued as Scotland strung together some stirring driving phases to set up Weir’s third successful strike (9-9, 26 mins).

But from the kick-off Matt Fagerson was momentarily isolated and duly pinged for failure to release, enabling Ramos to edge the visitors ahead again (9-12, 29 mins).

Astonishingly it was 30 minutes before the game’s first scrum – indicative that it had been a decent spectacle thus far – and, even better, the scrum was completed too!

Just over three minutes before half-time, Weir maintained his 100% record with a fourth penalty, this one from beyond the ten-metre line (12-12, 37 mins).

Scotland were sloppy in tramline defence from the restart and there was then extensive TMO/ref dissection of a Camille Chat contact on Jonny Gray, which looked on the margins of legality.

Referee Barnes took no action and at the subsequent scrum, France won a penalty. They opted for touch but Scotland’s valiant defence thwarted attempts to secure a drive-over try.

Half-time: Scotland 12 France 12.

Off the first scrum of the second-half, France engineered space in midfield which Rattez stormed through from an inside feed from Gael Fickou. The winger then released Vakatawa who slipped Kinghorn’s tackle then muscled his way to downward pressure as Hogg attempted to hold him up over the line. Ramos converted (12-19, 42 mins).

In Scotland’s riposte Weir made it five penalties from five from inside the French 22 (15-19, 46 mins).

Kinghorn almost escaped from a lineout steal against the throw from Watson but a subsequent knock-on denied Scotland any continuity.

As the hour neared, France cranked up a driving maul first on the left and then on the right. The hosts did well to survive the first onslaught, but they secured Ramos’s fourth penalty from the next (15-22, 60 mins).

At this juncture Scotland strove manfully to gain a foothold in French territory but they were emerging in the debit column from so much of the kick-chase. One such episode that went in their favour, unfortunately saw Scotland penalised at the ensuing scrum.

But at the next setpiece, the penalty went in Scotland’s favour. They won the lineout and Hogg’s touchfinder forced Fickou to concede the five-metre lineout as Van Der Merwe was in menacing proximity.

Alas the lineout was a bit off kilter and though Scotland secured the ball, they were penalised at the breakdown, advanced ten metres for back chat. Another penalty saw France attempt a long-range kick at goal, but it was short from four metres inside their own half.

Scotland’s lineout misfired again as the clock reached 78 minutes and a crossing penalty as they sought to attack off a scrum looked like their last opportunity had gone.

France knocked on from a lineout close to Scotland’s ten metre line and then coughed up a contact penalty with the clock in the red but Hogg’s touchfinder was just too ambitious and Scotland’s run of home success against France was ended.

Full-time: Scotland 15 France 22.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) CAPTAIN, Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors), Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown (all Glasgow Warriors), Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby), Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs), Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

Subs: George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) for Brown 67 mins), Jamie Bhatti (Edinburgh Rugby) for Kebble (67 mins), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) for Berghan (43 mins)., Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) for Gray (67 mins), Blade Thomson (Scarlets) for Watson (60 mins), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Exeter Chiefs), Duncan Taylor (Saracens) for Johnson (72 mins), Sean Maitland (Saracens) for Kinghorn (60 mins).

France: Thomas Ramos; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez; Matthieu Jalibert, Antonie Dupont; Jean-Baptiste Gros, Camille Chat, Demba Bamba, Bernard Le Roux, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon CAPTAIN, Gregory Alldritt.

Subs: Julien Marchand for Chat (53 mins), Cyril Baille for Gros (53 mins), Mohammed Haouass for Bamba (55 mins), Paul Willemse for Taofifenua (61 mins), Cameron Woki, Baptiste Couilloud, Louis Carbonel, Arthur Vincent for Rattez (70 mins).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England). Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England) and Nika Amashukeli (Georgia). TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

Tennent’s Zero Man of the Match: Virimi Vakatawa (France).

live commentary 3:15 PM Sunday 22 Nov 2020

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Kick-off 3:15 PM

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