|2018 Six Nations|
|Scotland (14) 32|
|Tries: Maitland, Jones Cons: Laidlaw 2 Pens: Laidlaw 6|
|France (20) 26|
|Tries: Thomas 2 Cons: Machenaud 2 Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2|
Scotland put defeat by Wales behind them to overcome France at Murrayfield and revive their Six Nations campaign.
The first of two Teddy Thomas tries put France into an early 10-0 lead before Sean Maitland crossed for Scotland.
Thomas gathered a lucky bounce to score again but the hosts replied via Huw Jones’ try, only for Maxime Machenaud’s second penalty to put France 20-14 up.
Greig Laidlaw kicked six penalties, to two from Baptiste Serin, to steer the Scots home in a tense second half.
Scotland will next face reigning champions England at Murrayfield on Saturday, 24 February (16:45 KO), while France host Italy on Friday, 23 February (20:00 KO).
The fashion in which Scotland were swatted away by Wales on the opening day caused a hasty reassessment in some quarters of what Gregor Townsend’s men could realistically achieve in this championship, having been tipped by many as potential dark horses for the title.
France were nursing their own wounds, denied victory against Ireland in Paris by a dramatic Johnny Sexton drop-goal in the last play of the game.
Thomas’ stunning try looked to have given France victory in that match before Sexton’s late heroics. With less than three minutes on the clock here, the winger ripped the Scottish defence to shreds.
Collecting a pass five metres inside the Scottish half wide on the right, Thomas brushed off a weak Finn Russell tackle, skipped around Peter Horne and away from Stuart Hogg to coast over.
Machenaud’s conversion and subsequent penalty saw the nervous Murrayfield faithful glance up at a scoreboard showing their team 10-0 down after 10 minutes, but the Scotland response was not long in coming.
A clever kick from Hogg forced an attacking line-out deep in French territory. After running through the phases – something they struggled badly with last weekend – the Scots picked their moment to go wide, Russell timing the scoring pass to Maitland to perfection.
Scotland’s attacking style drew many plaudits in the autumn, but if Wales proved they do not have a monopoly on ambitious rugby, the French seemed intent on ramming it down their throats.
After pulling the home side from side to side, the ball was shipped to Thomas. The Racing 92 flier chipped ahead and as the bounce took the ball away from the covering Laidlaw, Thomas gathered to re-establish the 10-point lead.
The next score was going to be crucial to Scottish confidence – on the field and in the stands – and the stadium erupted when Jones cut a gorgeous short line to take Laidlaw’s pass, slice through the France defence and go in under the posts.
Another Machenaud penalty gave the French a 20-14 half-time lead, but it was the Scots that began the second period on the front foot. The impressive Grant Gilchrist blasted through a couple of tackles to get the French retreating and when they infringed on the floor, Laidlaw kicked Scotland back within three.
Serin, on for Machenaud at scrum-half, and Laidlaw traded penalties as the initiative swung one way and then another, with referee John Lacey’s whistle checking the momentum of both sides.
Serin struck again from the tee, but again Laidlaw hit back, and going into the final quarter it seemed the team who could conjure a try would probably go on and win the game.
Laidlaw popped over his fourth penalty to level things up at 26-26. Townsend then sprung a surprise by removing captain John Barclay and Russell, guilty of a couple of basic errors, to make way for David Denton and Ali Price, with Laidlaw moving to fly-half.
The home side were in the ascendency, their replacements bringing the intended energy to their play, and with 10 minutes remaining Laidlaw’s fifth penalty gave them the lead for the first time.
Another, with four minutes left, gave the scrum-half a 22-point haul from a flawless eight shots at goal, and Murrayfield was soon erupting in relief and celebration.
Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Jones, Horne, Maitland; Russell, Laidlaw; Reid, McInally, Berghan, Gilchrist, Gray, Barclay (capt), Watson, Wilson.
Replacements: Lawson, Bhatti (for Reid, 58), Welsh, Toolis (for Gilchrist, 58), Denton (for Barclay, 65), Price (for Russell, 65), Harris, Kinghorn.
France: Palis; Thomas, Lamerat, Doumayrou, Vakatawa; Beauxis, Machenaud; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Slimani, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Camara, Tauleigne
Replacements: Pelissie (for Guirado, 75), Ben Arous (for Poirot, 58), Gomes Sa (for Slimani, 58), Gabrillagues, Picamoles (for Tauleigne, 58), Serin (for Machenaud, 41), Belleau (for Beauxis, 71), Fall (for Vakatawa, 71).
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Touch judges: Nigel Owens (Wales) & Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)