Fall Nations Cup: Scotland 15-22 France

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Stuart Hogg had a failed attempt to touch in the dying moments of the game
Scotland: (12) 15
Pens: Weir (5)
France: (12) 22
Try: They fell With: Ramos Pens: Ramos (4) Drop goal: Jalibert

The fate of Scotland’s Autumn Nations Cup is out of their own hands following their frenzied loss to France at Murrayfield.

Their hopes of reaching the final now rest on the possibility of Italy beating France in Paris next week.

The teams were tied at the break, but minutes after the restart, Virimi Vakatawa won the game’s only try.

Scotland had to hang on to repeated French attacks, but its courageous defense went unrewarded.

Gregor Townsend’s side were aiming for a sixth consecutive Test victory for only the third time, and the first since 1990, but they have never been in a winning position against the French.

France’s victory ended a four-game losing streak at Murrayfield and was their first victory in Edinburgh since 2014.

First kicking duel

The last meeting of these sides produced all kinds of fireworks; a red card for the French when Mohamed Haouas punched Jamie Ritchie in the gob, a complaint from France that Nick Haining should have been sent off, too, for making contact with Haouas’ eyes and, of course, a victory from Scotland – their fourth in a row against Visitors to Edinburgh.

So there was a cheeky recent history. France arrived with intention and without end of power, their first big maul of the day collecting a penalty which Ramos knocked down. The full-back put in another a few minutes after Kinghorn nearly won a line chase ahead of Vakatawa. When play came back for the penalty, Ramos went 6-0.

These were a bit worrying times for the Scots, but they’re made of tougher things these days. In the past, they may have let the dashboard slip away. This time they dug and got their way back. Weir, who was kicking like an angel, went 6-3 and then leveled it when Gregory Alldritt finished with a breakdown.

The kicking duel continued. France tried to free their horses but the defense of Scotland stopped them. Jalibert, having seen enough of the power play, stepped back and dropped a goal instead. Weir responded when Dylan Cretin failed to roll after sustained pressure from Scotland; 9-9.

Two more penalties went 12-12 before a convincing end of the half. France had a line-up at 5m and a maul which seemed unable to be stopped. They worked him to the line and pulled their heavy weights. You would have bet the house on their breakthrough, but they didn’t. Restrained, they withdrew with something approaching fury etched on their faces.

Scotland must hang on

Not for long, however. Their first attack from the new half saw an entirely different outcome. Very little has been seen of France’s fatal runners at this point. Antoine Dupont was calm, Gael Fickou had offered nothing, Vakatawa was killed.

Duncan Weir scored five penalties for Scotland

It changed in two minutes. A strong French scrum, a pass from Fickou to Rattez and Scotland were in trouble. The wing split open and found Vakatawa on his shoulder. With that momentum and from that distance, nothing could be done to stop it, although Stuart Hogg did his best.

The conversion was 19-12, but a fifth penalty from Weir closed the gap quickly. How Scotland survived the next 10 minutes by conceding just three points was a minor miracle – or a testament to their jamming defense.

France’s forwards dominated the breakdown, their backs became influential, their ball was faster and their threat increased. They threw two mauls which swept the ground. Scotland was hanging on, closer and closer to its own line. Eventually they called to say guaranteed three runs was better than hitting all night for five or seven. Ramos handed it over. Seven point difference now.

The end of the game was rambling and weird. Scotland got a lineout 5m from the French line despite Hogg pushing Fickou behind the ball in the preamble. A huge opportunity – and a huge French defensive set, Dylan Cretin ruins Scotland’s great luck. France then had a penalty in their own half, Ramos opted for the goal, partly to cut the time, then rushed it for some reason.

His kick failed. France took it back and expelled it at full speed. Scotland got her back and with the time practically running out she got a penalty. Hogg went to touch him – and put him to death. A burlesque end to a battle. A full stop on Scotland’s winning race.

Scotland: Hogg (c); Kinghorn, Harris, Johnson, Van der Merwe, Weir, Price; Kebble, Brown, Berghan; Cummings, gris; Ritchie, Watson, M. Fagerson.

Substitutes: Turner, Bhatti, Z Fagerson, Skinner, Thomson, Hidalgo-Clyne, Taylor, Maitland.

France: Ramos; Thomas, Vakatawa, Fickou, Rattez; Jalibert, Dupont; Fat, Cat, Bamba; Le Roux, Taofifenua; Cretin, Ollivon (c), Alldritt

Substitutes: Marchand, Baille, Haouas, Willemse, Woki, Couilloud, Carbonel, Vincent

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