SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) France needed two late penalties from flyhalf Camille Lopez to beat Scotland 22-16 in a hard-fought Six Nations match on Sunday, after the Scots had clawed back to draw level heading into the last 10 minutes.
Scotland won its opening game last weekend against Ireland but still has not won in France since 1999.
Lopez held his nerve to give France a much-needed win after last weekend’s close defeat against England, where the French were beaten by a late try in a 19-16 loss.
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”We’re frustrated in terms of how we played but not with the result,” France coach Guy Noves said. ”Last time we lost because of a lack of character but this time the last quarter of an hour went in our favor.”
Scotland’s tries came from star fullback Stuart Hogg in the first half – his third of the tournament – and lock Tim Swinson’s effort after the break. Neither was converted, with flyhalf Finn Russell failing to kick the extras from in front of the posts after Swinson’s try.
Center Gael Fickou finished off a good French move in the first half and his converted try opened up a 13-5 lead.
But sloppy mistakes that allowed the Scots back into the game.
However, following Lopez’s two penalties, a converted try in the last four minutes proved too much a task for Scotland.
Vern Cotter’s side picked up a defensive bonus point, moving it level on five points with France. France is in fourth place, Scotland is fifth, and Italy is last. England leads after its two opening victories.
”It was a bit of a stop-start affair at times, we couldn’t get rhythm into our attack,” Cotter said. ”Credit to the French, they came at us and created pressure. The rucks were fiercely contested.”
Lopez slotted a penalty from nearly 40 meters out for an early French lead.
Scotland hit back through Hogg, who scored two tries in a 27-22 win over the Irish at Murrayfield last weekend, and expertly took his opportunity after a gritty opening 15 minutes.
Following a long spell of pressure, Hogg collected a short pass from center Huw Jones and then stood up scrumhalf Baptiste Serin for a try in the right corner. Scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw’s conversion attempt from the touchline hit the bar.
Soon after, Lopez’s penalty made it 6-5.
Then, Scotland’s chances were dealt a blow when Laidlaw went off with a knock to his ankle after 25 minutes and was replaced by Ali Price.
”(It’s difficult) when you lose your captain and playmaker,” Cotter said. ”We’ll see how bad it is.”
After Laidlaw hobbled off, France moved further ahead. The French drove forward relentlessly, stretching the Scottish line, and after several phases the ball was moved wide to Fickou, who darted into the right corner for a converted try.
Russell trimmed the deficit to 13-11 heading into the break and careless defending from France fullback Scott Spedding gifted Scotland the go-ahead try early into the second period.
Winger Tommy Seymour charged down the right and spotted Spedding too far forward. Seymour chipped an angled kick toward him, Spedding put both his hands out to gather the bouncing ball but completely misjudged as it went over his head. Seymour gathered it back and intelligently fed Swinson for a try under the posts. Then came Russell’s miss, drawing mocking roars from the French crowd at Stade de France.
After Lopez’s penalty restored parity, the French got on top. Brilliant Scottish defending held up the French four times near the line, and France center Remi Lamerat’s try was ruled out following a replay. It appeared a marginal call whether he had full control of the ball before putting it down.
France held on at the end.
”It was extremely physical and we knew that coming out there,” Scotland lock Jonny Gray said. ”It’s all about putting our hands up and saying what went wrong.”