France 22 Scotland 13
Scotland slipped to their second RBS 6 Nations defeat in seven days as France kickstarted their campaign with an unconvincing win in Paris.
France’s under-pressure head coach Marc Lievremont claimed it would have been a “true humiliation” had his side lost at home to the Scots but they were leading just 6-3 at the end of a dire, error-strewn first half.
The French cut loose after the break, Fulgence Ouedraogo going over for a 45th-minute try and Lionel Beauxis adding 11 points to the six he kicked in the first half, but the jury is still out on Lievremont and his new charges.
At least France were able to avenge last weekend’s reverse in Ireland. Scotland, convincingly defeated 26-13 by Wales on the opening weekend, were enterprising in fits and starts but disappointed overall.
Recalled winger Thom Evans darted over for a late try converted by Chris Paterson and Phil Godman booted over two penalties, but Frank Hadden’s men again failed to deliver.
They lost the scrum battle and made too many simple errors throughout, something that will have to rectified before the visit of Italy in a fortnight’s time in what could be a wooden-spoon decider.
Scotland were hoping to discover there was nowhere better to be on Valentine’s Day than Paris but it did not work out that way.
With just two wins in the French capital in 40 years, the Scots were very much underdogs but when there is such a scenario, they often surprise themselves.
And they started decently enough, Simon Danielli’s thunderous second-minute hit on Clement Poitrenaud a signal of intent.
The flaky full-back may have still been feeling the effects of that tackle when he inexplicably fumbled Max Evans’ grubber-kick behind his line in the fifth minute. The Toulousain managed to ground the ball before Thom Evans closed in.
From the hosts’ first foray forward, Scotland’s scrum gave away a 13th-minute penalty which Beauxis screwed wide from 20 yards.
He made amends though in the 23rd minute, finding his range after Kelly Brown - on as an injury replacement for Jim Hamilton – infringed at a maul to break the deadlock.
Moments later, the Stade Francais pivot latched onto a stray Scotland pass and gave chase after hooking the ball into the visitors’ half. A benign bounce and he would have been in for a try but he could not control 30 yards out and the chance was lost.
Les Bleus – backed by a fairly mute crowd – were having most of the ball but the Scots’ defence was comfortably holding its own, although it was hardly riveting fare for the 80,000 crowd.
Godman slotted over a penalty against the run of play in the 34th minute to restore parity but after missing one immediately after, Beauxis bisected the posts with another to send the French into the interval with a slight advantage.
By that stage, Lievremont must have been concerned. His side had not created one try-scoring opportunity and Beauxis was proving far from reliable with the boot. Moreover, his senior prop Nicolas Mas had injured himself and did not re-emerge for the second half.
He need not have worried. Les Tricolores found gaps soon after the restart allowing Ouedraogo to score the game’s opening try in the 45th minute.
It owed much to the work of Maxime Medard, who took Lionel Nallet’s pass, cut in from the right and stood a neat pass up for the Montpellier flanker to barge over for a score Beauxis converted.
Godman made it 13-6 with his second successful penalty but Beauxis replied with one of his own four minutes later.
Mike Blair and John Barclay could not provide the finishing touch to a rapid counter-attack down the middle as Hadden’s men sought to find a way back.
But their failings in the scrum resurfaced on the hour mark and Beauxis landed another penalty to put France further clear.
With time running out, Godman missed a penalty attempt but in the 70th minute he laid on an inside pass to Thom Evans, who sped clear to dive over.
Substitute Paterson converted and there were just six points in it, but Scotland’s hopes evaporated when Beauxis kicked his fifth penalty, in the 74th minute, to seal victory.