Scotland claw their way to victory over winless France

Greig Laidlaw booted 22 points on his return to Scotland's starting line-up as Gregor Townsend's men kick-started their NatWest 6 Nations campaign with a 32-26 win over France.

The home side were under pressure to prove they were genuine contenders after being humiliated by Wales in last week's opener in Cardiff.

And they did just that, with tries from Sean Maitland and Huw Jones providing the perfect response after Teddy Thomas' blistering pace had twice cut them apart.

That left the game finely poised in the second half but Laidlaw - making his first Scotland start in a year - slotted over all eight of his kicks to breathe fresh life into Scottish championship hopes.

Townsend had been drilling into his team all week the need to tighten up their accuracy following their self-inflicted defeat in Cardiff.

So his frustration was understandable as his men missed three opportunities to halt Thomas scoring the first try after just three minutes.

Remi Lamerat did the Racing 92 wing no favours by passing to his feet but even that did not stop Thomas as he handed off Finn Russell, side-stepped Peter Horne and then galloped past Stuart Hogg for the line.

When Maxime Machenaud booted over a penalty soon after the Scots found themselves 10-0 down before they had even got started.

But they responded magnificently on 13 minutes. Having been criticised for their insistence on going wide against Wales, Scotland showed they are capable of bludgeoning right up the middle as Jonny Gray sat Machenaud down with a shuddering shoulder barge.

Grant Gilchrist and Russell then moved the ball quickly out to Maitland to dot down in the corner.

Russell's errant kicking let the French off the hook as he failed to find touch and that mistake was punished on 27 minutes as Thomas' wizardry once again opened up the Scots.

He picked up the ball again as France swept left to right and chipped the ball over Hogg before charging for the line.

But just as Laidlaw looked set to bail out the hosts, a wicked bounce took the former skipper out of the equation and Thomas was left free to score.

Scotland, though, were proving harder to shake off than last week and hit back again on 31 minutes.

Hogg's drive split the French defence and with Les Bleus scrambling for cover Jones spotted a chink as he raced in to score under the posts.

The teams then exchanged a pair of penalties apiece as Machenaud and Baptiste Serin knocked over for France, with Laidlaw twice responding for Scotland.

France again turned up the pressure but all they got was another Serin penalty as the Scots stood firm through 20 bruising phases - but again Scotland battled back with Laidlaw knocking over two kicks to put them level with 16 minutes left.

Now it was Scotland mounting the cavalry charge, forcing France to concede yet another penalty on 70 minutes which Laidlaw once again punished to put Townsend's team in front for the first time.

The Clermont Auvergne scrum-half then made sure of the victory with three minutes left as he again fired over.


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