France 38 Scotland 3
France completed their expected drubbing of Scotland at the Stade de France this afternoon with Fabien Pelous, Clement Poitrenaud, Damien Traille and Aurelien Rougerie all touching down.
Fly-half Francois Gelez booted 18 points in a near-flawless display of kicking as the Scots collapsed to their second heavy RBS 6 Nations defeat in succession.
Scotland ran out at the Stade de France today looking to erase memories of their record defeat by Ireland in their RBS 6 Nations opener last Sunday.
The shortcomings of Ian McGeechan’s team were ruthlessly exposed as a clutch of tryscoring opportunities went begging against the Irish, prompting the Scotland coach to ring the changes in his misfiring backline.
Edinburgh’s Brendan Laney was switched from centre to fly-half, replacing the unfortunate Gordon Ross who dropped down to the bench, while veteran Gregor Townsend was given the nod at outside centre.
Townsend, Scotland’s most-capped player, was joined in the midfield by Borders’ Kevin Utterson as Andy Craig also paid the price for last Sunday’s Murrayfield debacle.
Paris had been a reasonably happy hunting ground for the Scots – their previous four visits had yielded two victories – but they faced a France side also looking to avenge an opening-day defeat.
Fly-half Gerard Merceron was made the scapegoat for the reverse against England – he missed three shots as goal in the narrow 25-17 loss at Twickenham - with Agen’s Francois Gelez taking over the number 10 jersey.
France’s only other change saw the inclusion of Stade Francais prop Sylvain Marconnet at the expense of Christian Califano as coach Bernard Laporte looked to add some extra power and aggression to his pack.
Scotland made a promising start but France soon took control, winning a penalty after number eight Imanol Harinordoquy secured some quick lineout ball which was fed to the onrushing Damien Traille.
The Pau centre made good ground up the middle of the pitch, forcing Scotland to infringe in front of their own posts and Gelez made no mistake with his kick.
A long-range penalty in the fifth minute drew Scotland level but the visitors were back under pressure shortly after when Vincent Clerc was put into space down the left only for Kenny Logan, covering from the opposite wing, to pull off a try-saving tackle.
France won the ensuing lineout however and began a powerful forward drive which saw second row Fabien Pelous go over in the corner. Gelez missed the conversion.
A scything run from Logan in the 13th minute opened-up the home defence and with full-back Clement Poitrenaud as the last line of defence he chipped ahead, only to be beaten to the ball by the French cover.
Gelez was then on target with a 19th-minute penalty as French pressure began to tell, pushing his side into an 11-3 lead.
Edinburgh winger Paterson had the chance to reduce the deficit in the 23rd minute but he nudged his penalty kick wide, although the Scots remained camped in their opponents’ half.
They continued to push forward but were eventually penalised by referee Peter Marshall for crossing at the breakdown, allowing France to clear the danger.
Scottish hopes took a blow in the 25th minute when skipper Bryan Redpath, winning his 50th cap, trotted off the field clutching his head with scrum-half Michael Blair coming on to replace him.
France went back on the offensive and another promising break was cut short by a high tackle on Gelez, who gratefully accepted the ensuing penalty opportunity.
Redpath was now back in action and his quick-tap penalty in first-half injury-time prompted one Scottish raid which was concluded when Paterson was bundled into touch.
Gelez had the last word of a disappointing first half for the Scots when he landed a 44th penalty.
The second half was barely a minute old when France grabbed their second try of the afternoon - Clerc made the initial break before feeding Xavier Garbajosa whose final pass found Clement Poitrenaud for a try in the corner.
Gelez slotted the conversion but his side were soon on the back foot when the Scots launched a rare foray into enemy territory.
But the hapless visitors could do nothing from a five-metre scrum as their backline move descended into a series of errors, letting France off the hook.
They fashioned a fine opportunity in the 50th minute but Utterson chose to go it alone when he had a clear overlap on his left, bringing back memories of a similar mistake by Laney against the Irish last Sunday.
France went further ahead in the 60th minute through Traille, who scooped up a loose ball at the back of a ruck before ghosting over under the posts for a try which Gelez improved.
The match began to fade out in the last quarter, the flow hampered by a series of errors from both sides.
Scotland went close to scoring in the 70th minute though when a neat crossfield chip from Gregor Townsend found Utterson but he knocked on with the line begging.
There was time for one final try however and inevitably it came from the French as Aurelien Rougerie collected a towering bomb before touching down, with Gelez converting.