Scotland loses out in thriller against France in final warm-up clash
Scotland was ruthlessly denied late on in Paris as Noa Nakaitaci scored to give France a narrow 19-16 win in both sides’ final match before the Rugby World Cup.
The Scots’, who have not won at the Stade de France since 1999, came so close to victory and were leading 9-6 at the break.
Scott Spedding’s long-range kick then put France ahead after the break before Tommy Seymour’s try had regained the Dark Blues’ advantage. However, what would have been a historical victory was snatched away by wing Nakaitaci’s late score.
More drama followed as Vern Cotter’s men opted against taking a penalty, which would have handed them a draw, and instead went in pursuit of what could have been a winning try although came away fruitless.
The performance overall will have nevertheless pleased the New Zealand-born head coach, but from this display he still has a few last-minute kinks to iron out before the World Cup kicks off.
The Dark Blues’ heated selection John Hardie certainly didn’t disgrace himself on his second outing for Scotland. However, the New Zealand-born forward was never going to outshine French Skipper, Thierry Dusautioir, who making his first appearance of the summer, was given a roaring reception from the French faithful.
Greig Laidlaw’s three first-half penalties compared to Freddy Michalak’s two yet had silenced the Stade de France and ensured Scotland led at the break. It could have been different if Les Bleus Wesley Fofana score had been awarded, but the try was disallowed for a forward pass from his centre partner Mathieu Bastareaud in the build up.
After the break France levelled through Michalak before Spedding, kicking from Distance, slotted to give the hosts a three-point lead after 58 minutes, 12-9.
However, Scotland reclaimed the lead just four minutes later when Seymour outpaced Spedding to collect a perfect kick from scrum-half Laidlaw before racing in to touch down. Laidlaw then added the extras to give the visitors a four-point lead, 12-16.
The French nevertheless had no intentions of losing on their patch and got their reward for their unceasing pressure when David Denton was sin-binned for a cynical foul on Bastareaud.
And with the numerical advantage, Philippe Saint Andre’s men couldn’t be resisted. Some quick, accurate passing ended with Nakaitaci storming over for the winner, and replacement Morgan Parra confidently converted to give the hosts a three-point advantage, 19-16.
Scotland then had their chances, with Laidlaw turning down an opportunity to draw from the tee and Matt Scott wasting an excellent opportunity as he threw a wild pass into touch.
Les Bleus second straight win will give them momentum heading into their potential banana-skin World Cup opener against Italy on September 20th while Scotland will look to get themselves organised for when they begin their campaign against Japan three days later.
Ruck man of the match- Greig Laidlaw
Despite being on the losing side, Scotland Skipper Greig Laidlaw had a flawless game. He created the Scots’ only score with a stunning kick and was ever dependable with his goal kicking. The 29-year old will be fundamental to any success Vern Cotter’s men have at the forthcoming World Cup.
France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Alexandre Dumoulin.
Scotland: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Alasdair Strokosch, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Sean Lamont.