Scottish hopes of bagging a first win in Paris in 20 years were eclipsed in the Parisian spring sun as France’s team of individuals managed to finally find some sense of unity amid the chaos of their 2019 Six Nations campaign to secure a bonus point victory.
Seventeen points was a frustrating margin for Scotland to lose by and Gregor Townsend will especially rue his team’s inability to fire a shot during the 10-minute first-half spell when they had man advantage with Yoann Huget in the bin.
Instead of eating into a 3-10 margin, Scotland were fortunate that a French try was ruled out and an easy penalty kick missed. Their challenge then fell away with the early second-half concession of a try from Huget.
A scoreless 33-minute spell followed but any hopes that the fresher legs of the Scottish bench would generate a comeback were outdone by the late two-try contribution of French sub Gregory Alldritt, his second arriving in the eighth added minute. Here’s how the Scotland players rated:
15. BLAIR KINGHORN – 4
Played as if his demotion to the bench against Ireland following a try hat-trick in the opener against Italy had dented his confidence. Didn’t provide the defensive security demanded of him in the absence of the injured Stuart Hogg. He was poorly positioned when Romain Ntamack pounced for the first French try and was far too easily stepped by Huget for the second.
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14. TOMMY SEYMOUR – 4
Far too anonymous. Rather than accept being isolated on his wing, he needed to offer himself more. Even when traffic did come his way his tackling was found wanting and with France in full flow, he missed too many and would surely have been replaced had the equally ineffective Sean Maitland on the other wing not gone off first.
13. NICK GRIGG – 6
What he gave in defence with some encouraging tackling he ruined in attack with too many turnovers in possession. Selected in place of the injured Huw Jones, Grigg was an nuggety operator who went in low and often to chop tackle more physical French ball-carriers. However, he suffered of the other side on the ball and was easy pickings. A 68th minute steal by Huget near the French 22 summed up his mixed afternoon.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 23, 2019
12. SAM JOHNSON – 6
One of Scotland’s more tidier operators, he only lasted 53 minutes. The few metres he made were hard-earned, but it was defence where was left exposed, finding himself powerless as the last man to prevent Ntamack from finishing off the first tr that set the tone for a difficult afternoon.
11. SEAN MAITLAND – 4
It was his early missed tackle on Thomas Ramos that ignited the show of French flair on a sunny, dry afternoon. He was intelligent enough to sniff out the danger that could have led to a Huget try on 16 minutes, but his failure to get off the ground against the aerial-fetching Damian Penaud eight minutes after the break illustrated how the Maitland that plays for Scotland doesn’t carry the same certainty when he plays with Saracens in the Premiership.
10. PETER HORNE – 6
Was gutsy in a role when was stepping in for the unavailable Finn Russell, but his game was too loose on a day when the Scots needed reliability. He was the second player too easily stepped after Maitland on Ramos’ tone-setting early run. He selflessly put his body on the line, though. One hit from Guilhem Guirado was bone-shaking. He stuck at it and was rewarded with the consolation of his break being the catalyst for his side’s late – and only – try.
9. GREIG LAIDLAW – 5
He earns big bucks as a high profile addition to the all-swaggering Clermont team but his laboured distribution from the Scotland ruck continued on from way it was in the loss to Ireland. His passing away from the breakdown was far too pedestrian and it allowed the French defence to get set time and time again. The higher tempo Ali Price could be the future key to quicken the pace of the Scottish attack, but that would spark a debate about the captaincy. Laidlaw’s afternoon was encapsulated by his seemingly straightforward penalty kick hitting an upright.
1. ALLAN DELL – 4
Started encouragingly enough with a meaty rip of French possession in the tackle. However, he couldn’t deliver on his set-piece bread and butter. Two penalised scrum collapses were a huge black mark in a contest when set-piece security was an imperative.
2. STUART McINALLY – 5
Was busy in other aspects of the match but, just like Dell, he needed his basics to go very well and they didn’t. His first lineout throw was stolen. That didn’t cause too much damage as the steal took place on the Scots 10 metre-line. However, his failure to find Magnus Bradbury with a throw just minutes before the break after a penalty was kicked deep into the French 22 was infuriating.
3. SIMON BERGHAN – 4
Difficult day with the Scottish pack under the pump against a physical French unit looking to erase the bad memories of their opening two matches. He got away without being penalised for some early crossing when Scotland carried, but he rarely featured in or around the ball after that.
— FF Rugby (@FFRugby) February 23, 2019
4. GRANT GILCHRIST – 5
Was the quieter of the two starting second rows even though he played the full 80. Was at fault at the first Scotland throw when Scotland needed a more composed start. Dug in after that but a penalty for coming in at the side on 44 minutes illustrated how difficult it was to get in amongst the French forwards and be a nuisance.
5. JONNY GRAY – 5
Did some selfless work and managed to put in a whole heap of tackles before he disappeared on 56 minutes. The problem with Gray is that he is always an immense asset to have when his team doesn’t have the ball, but the question has to be asked does he offer enough when he team are looking to create?
6. MAGNUS BRADBURY – 5
Chosen in place of injured Ryan Wilson, he finished as his team’s top tackler. That commitment was excellent but, as was the case with a number of his colleagues, it’s what he didn’t do on the other side of the ball that contributed to his team’s defeat. A failed lineout take just before the break – he was beaten in the air by Wenceslas Lauret – was costly.
7. JAMES RITCHIE – 6
Another regular tackler, but he didn’t have all that much luck when trying to poach ball on the floor of the French breakdown. His struggle to gain ground on his carries was an indicator of how tough it was for the Scots to get momentum. Caught on his own line late on, he conceded the scrum-five that prompted the third French try.
8. JOSH STRAUSS – 4
Was at the heart of a loss passport carry-on in midweek and he will wonder if he would have been better off if a replacement wasn’t fast-tracked. Going off his feet at a ruck cost his team a potential 29th minute try and he will recoil in horror when he reviews France’s second try. The sight of Mathieu Bastareaud putting a kick over his head and having the acceleration to run around and catch looked awful.
22. ADAM HASTINGS – 6
Arrived into the action on 44 minutes and quickly got a taste, intercepting a French pass to spoil one attack and then making a soccer goal-keeping style save to block a kick through. Also made an excellent line break on 68 minutes.
16. FRASER BROWN (for McInally, 64), 17. ALEX ALLAN (for Dell, 75), 18. ZANDER FAGERSON (for Berghan, 64), 19. BEN TOOLIS (for Gray, 56), 20. GARY GRAHAM (for Strauss, 64), 21. ALI PRICE (for Laidlaw, 64), 23. D’ARCY GRAHAM (for Maitland, 64) – all 4
Scotland make an exciting fuss about the calibre of its bench but even a six-man substitution on 64 minutes, at a time when France had only made one change, couldn’t alter the way the game was going. Price did score a try, but Allan left his scrum down for France’s third.
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