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6 Nations 2018: Scotland 32 v 26 France

Greig Laidlaw kicked six second half penalties as Scotland got their Six Nations campaign back on track following a 32-26 triumph over France.

The first half was a wonderfully free-flowing encounter with the sides scoring two tries apiece. Teddy Thomas touched down twice for the French – his second taking them 17-7 clear – but Sean Maitland and Huw Jones crossed the whitewash for the hosts to leave it finely poised.

Although the second period was slightly more attritional, with three penalties from Laidlaw to two from Baptiste Serin the only scores in the third quarter, it was still an enthralling contest going into the final 20 minutes.

Laidlaw then levelled proceedings before the half-back added two more from the tee to condemn France to a second consecutive defeat.

It was a thrilling affair – quite comfortably the best game of the championship – and the early passage of play set the tone.

With conditions far more conducive for attacking rugby than in France’s narrow defeat to Ireland last weekend, the visitors looked to move the ball wider and enjoyed plenty of success.

Once again, Thomas, after his wonderful individual score in round one, was particularly prominent and he repeated that effort in the opening 10 minutes.

The wing virtually produced a carbon copy of that try as he picked up the ball on the right, weaved outside Finn Russell and then stepped inside Stuart Hogg for another magnificent individual touchdown.

Jacques Brunel’s men were on the front foot and Maxime Machenaud followed up converting Thomas’ score by adding a penalty.

Scotland hit back, however. Against Wales, where they conceded early and duly folded, Gregor Townsend’s men could have gone the same way at Murrayfield but, to their credit, the hosts found their composure and, more importantly, their physicality.

Both Hamish Watson and Jonny Gray had surges which dented the opposition rearguard before the ball was shifted wide and Maitland crossed the whitewash unopposed.

Townsend’s side were playing much better but so were Les Bleus and another piece of Thomas brilliance saw them restore their 10-point buffer. The hosts were exposed on the right once more and the Frenchman sprinted down the wing, kicked ahead and touched down.

Unperturbed, Scotland reduced the arrears when Jones took a brilliant line, but a second Machenaud three-pointer gave the visitors a 20-14 advantage at the interval.

Discipline was an issue in the second period with Laidlaw and replacement Serin, who came on at half-time, trading three-pointers. The kickers then repeated the trick as Brunel’s side went into the final quarter 26-20 in front.

France were beginning to make errors, however, and they started to infringe more consistently. Two of those were in kickable positions and Scotland’s scrum-half was in no mood to miss, adding a brace of penalties.

The home team sensed that their opponents were wilting and searched for the decisive breakthrough. Townsend’s men were on the front foot and the pressure eventually yielded an opportunity for their sharp-shooter, which he converted.

Scotland maintained their intensity and Laidlaw made sure that they erased memories of their woeful performance against Wales.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Maitland, Jones
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Laidlaw 6

For France:
Tries: Thomas 2
Cons: Machenaud 2
Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Blair Kinghorn

France: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Maxine Machenaud, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Adrien Pelissié, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Louis Picamoles, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Benjamin Fall

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)




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