France finished their preparations for this month’s Rugby World Cup by beating a spirited Scotland in Paris on Saturday. Three penalties from Frederic Michalak and a Noa Nakaitaci try proved decisive for the hosts in a tight encounter.
Scotland stayed in touch and led heading into the closing stages after a Tommy Seymour try. But France’s dominant pack proved Scotland’s undoing as Number 8 David Denton was sent to the sin-bin with 10 minutes remaining.
Vern Cotter’s men had the opportunity to draw the match with a final minute penalty. Admirably, captain Greig Laidlaw elected to run the ball in an attempt to secure a first Scottish win on French soil since 1999.
It wasn’t to be, and Philippe Saint-André’s side ground out a hard-fought victory.
A stoic first half saw both sides exchange penalties. As Michalak kept France in the game, it was the boot of Laidlaw that edged the visitors ahead 9-6 at half-time.
Two more Michalak penalties at the start of the second period pushed the home side in front for the first time in the match, but once again, Scotland fought back with a dramatic try in bizarre circumstances.
From turnover ball, scrum-half Laidlaw launched a cross-field kick for Tommy Seymour to chase. Seymour was given acres of space to run into as his opposite number Noa Nakaitaci was nowhere to be found. The covering Scott Spedding could not get to the ball in time and Seymour simply had to pick the ball up and cruise in under the posts.
After Denton’s sin-binning, France struck back with a try of their own. A solid scrum platform was the basis on which they managed it and Nakaitaci went from zero to hero to score the decisive try. A tidy inside ball from replacement fly-half Rémi Talès put the Fijian-born winger in near the posts; Talès converted.
Try as they might, Scotland could not find another try, despite having two clear chances.
Centre Mark Bennett proved a revelation in the match as the Glasgow man was a stand out figure in defence and attack. One final attempt from the Scots came to nothing however, and France held on for a deserved 19-16 victory at home.
You can watch extended (raw, no commentary) highlights below, provided by Scottish Rugby
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