It took a faultless display of kicking from the recalled Laidlaw to get Scotland’s campaign back on track with a 32-26 win over Les Bleus in Edinburgh following another slow start.
Scotland went into the game on the back of a humiliating defeat in Cardiff last week, and it looked as though they might be in for another tough afternoon after going 10-0 behind in the opening minutes before the scrum-half led the fightback with 22 points from the boot along with tries from Huw Jones and Sean Maitland.
France faded badly in the second period after flying out of the blocks with a brace from winger Teddy Thomas, and Laidlaw admitted the hosts need to improve against tournament favourites England in two weeks time if they are to pick anything up from the game.
“We can beat anyone but I think we will have to play better than we did today to beat England,” the former skipper said. “England are a good team and have showed what a great defence they have.
“We might need to look at kicking options and play smartly when that game rolls around but for the minute, we will analyse ourselves in depth and come back better in a couple of weeks.”
He added: “The second-half performance was good, (but) we’ll have to look at the first half.
“It’s going to have to go up a notch to beat England.
“England are playing really well again at the minute. Clearly they’re on a big run so it’ll be a tough game, but is it a game if we turn up and play the right rugby we’re going to be in? I believe so.”
Laidlaw’s inclusion marked an intention to deviate slightly from the free-flowing rugby that Scotland impressed with so much during the autumn, and it eventually paid off as they got their first win of the campaign to the relief of the players and coaching staff, who found themselves 26-20 down with 20 minutes to go before their superior fitness told.
The Clermont man, who later shifted to fly-half as the disappointing Finn Russell was substituted, admitted lessons had been learned from last week, saying:
“We are relieved. Sometimes Test-match rugby is not ideal.
“In the first half France were slowing our ball up so sometimes you just have to take your medicine, get downfield and play a bit of a kicking game and I thought we did that today.
“Do we want to kick the ball away? Not really, but are we willing to do it to put pressure on them? Absolutely.
“I think we found that balance today to stay in the game and force France to do something special.
“That was a real learning curve from last week to this week so we are delighted to get that shift.”
Tries: Maitland, H. Jones. Cons: Laidlaw 2. Pens: Laidlaw 6.
Cons: Machenaud 2. Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2.
Hogg, Seymour, H. Jones, Horne, Maitland, Russell, Laidlaw, Reid, McInally, Berghan, Gilchrist, J. Gray, Barclay, Watson, Wilson.
Price for Russell (65), Bhattie for Reid (58), Toolis for Gilchrist (58), Denton for Barclay (65).
Lawson, Welsh, Harris, Kinghorn. France: Tries: Thomas 2.
Palis, Thomas, Lamerat, Doumayrou, Vakatawa, Beauxis, Machenaud, Poirot, Guirado, Slimani, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Camara, Tauleigne.
Fall for Vakatawa (71), Belleau for Beauxis (71), Ben Arous for Poirot (58), Gomes Sa for Slimani (58), Gabrillagues for Vahaamahina (71), Picamoles for Tauleigne (58).
John Lacey (Ireland).