Scotland are off the mark in the Six Nations with a 32-26 victory over France helped by the pinpoint right boot of skipper Greig Laidlaw.
Scotland, so poor in their heavy loss to Wales last weekend, had a point to prove on their home turf. But it was France, who were unlucky last Saturday against Ireland, that started like a bull at the gate at Murrayfield thanks to the tremendous Teddy Thomas. The winger touched down after just two minutes thanks to a brilliant solo run. Thomas beat three defenders with ease down the left to score a sensational individual try.
An average opening spell continued for Scotland when they were penalized for not releasing the ball. Maxime Machenaud slotted the penalty and France were up 10-0 after just nine minutes. But Scotland didn’t take long to hit back. After a rolling maul on the right side, the home team used the space on the left and Sean Maitland dived over acrobatically in the corner in the 11th minute.
Normal service resumed in the 26th minute as Thomas’ impressive afternoon continued. France attacked from deep and the ball came out to Thomas’ wing. The flyer chipped over his man and won the race to the ball, the bounce ruining Laidlaw and Thomas had his double. Machenaud converted to take the score to 17-7.
The see-sawing nature of this continued continued six minutes later. Laidlaw found Huw Jones on the burst and the centre crossed after running a great angle. Scotland wouldn’t let the visitors pull away and Laidlaw cut the lead back to just three points. Les Bleus closed out the first half with another penalty to Machenaud, making it 20-14.
The Scots got the balling rolling in the second half, Laidlaw kicking a penalty to cut the lead back to three points. The two teams kept trading penalties, with Machenaud and Laidlaw both keeping the scoreboard ticking over. On 56 minutes substitute Baptiste Serin, on for Machenaud, made it 26-20. Four minutes later Laidlaw slotted his fifth penalty kick in a row to cut the buffer back to three points once more.
Both coaches went to their benches in search of a game-changer, both equally desperate for a victory. In the 64th minute Laidlaw had another penalty attempt and tied it up at 26-26 with a great long-range strike. The pressure started to toll on France and their errors mounted up. Scotland had all of the running and won another penalty in kickable-range in the 70th minute. Scrum-half Laidlaw stepped up again and as cool as nice knocked it over again to put his team in front for the first time in the match.
They never looked back. France made it easy for the home team, constantly giving away penalties in the ruck. In the second half they coughed up nine penalties to only three from Scotland. It was their undoing and with five minutes left Laidlaw kicked yet another.
The six-point lead was too much for Les Bleus and they couldn’t find a match-winning try in the dieing stages. Scotland will now head to Twickenham energised after a morale-boosting win. It was another disappointing afternoon for France, who next face fellow winless side Italy in Paris.