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Scotland 6-27 France

By Phil Harlow

France's outstanding winger Vincent Clerc
Clerc celebrates his second try with an extravagant dive

Scotland (6) 6
Pen: Parks
Drop-goal: Parks

France (17) 27
Tries: Clerc 2, Malzieu
Cons: Elissalde 2, Skrela
Pens: Traille 2

France got their new era off to a winning start as they outclassed Scotland in their Six Nations opener at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Dan Parks's early drop-goal put Scotland ahead, but a disputed Vincent Clerc try put France in control.

Julien Malzieu also crossed before half-time as France's attacking flair proved too much for Scotland.

The outstanding Clerc extended the lead after the break with his second as a new-look France hit the ground running.

In the build-up to his first match in charge of Les Bleus, new coach Marc Lievremont promised a return to the French traditions after replacing the more prosaic Bernard Laporte, and his players certainly lived up to expectations in an impressive showing.

France, with four debutants among their ranks, attacked from deep from the off and showed a willingness to tap-and-go from anywhere on the pitch, even spurning kickable penalties to keep the ball in hand.

With Murrayfield pumped up to fever pitch, Scotland killed the atmosphere stone dead with the most inauspicious of starts as Parks sent his kick-off sailing out on the full.

Parks quickly made amends by slotting over a tidy drop-goal, and a couple of excellent tactical kicks put his side in promising positions as the home team started the match full of attacking intent

Livewire scrum-half Mike Blair was at the heart of their best moments and a powerful run from Nikki Walker kept his side on the front foot.


But the momentum Scotland were beginning to build came to a shuddering halt with Clerc's controversial try after 11 minutes.

Some delightful handling released Clerc down the right touchline, and the winger exchanged passes - with one looking suspiciously forward - with Cedric Heymans before cutting inside and going through Nick De Luca's tackle to score.

Damien Traille added a penalty to take France 10-3 clear, while Parks missed badly with his first penalty attempt.

France's adventurous approach paid rich dividends on 23 minutes as, after a quick tapped penalty on halfway, debutant winger Malzieu chipped into acres of space and collected the ball - with the help of some generous defending by Parks and Rory Lamont.

Parks cut the gap with a penalty, while Jean-Baptiste Elissalde missed two kicks at goal in quick succession but there was no doubt which team was on top as the players went into half-time.

Scotland centre De Luca knocked on soon after the start of the second half - his third mistake of a nervy debut - to hand France an early attacking foothold, but a Malzieu knock-on spared his blushes.

But Traille soon punished a collapsed scrum from Scotland with his second penalty, and all the rugby was coming from a French side clearly relishing the chance to play with such freedom with Francois Trinh-Duc making an accomplished debut at fly-half.

Clerc was popping up with ball in hand all over the field, and he claimed a deserved second try after 64 minutes as he got on the end of his own grubber kick ahead to score next to the posts.

Scotland did not give the game up, with replacement Chris Paterson stopped inches short of the try-line after hacking forward a loose ball and Chris Cusiter having the ball knocked out of his grasp as he tried to dive over a ruck.

But it was France who ended the match on yet another attack from deep as their approach sent out a warning to the rest of the Six Nations.

Scotland: Rory Lamont; Nikki Walker, Nick De Luca, Andrew Henderson, Simon Webster; Dan Parks, Mike Blair; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Nathan Hines, Jim Hamilton, Jason White (capt), John Barclay, Dave Callam.
Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Gavin Kerr, Scott MacLeod, Kelly Brown, Chris Cusiter, Chris Paterson, Hugo Southwell.

France: Cedric Heymans; Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Damien Traille, Julien Malzieu; Francois Trinh-Duc, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde; Lionel Faure, William Servat, Julien Brugnaut, Loic Jacquet, Lionel Nallet (capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Thierry Dusautoir, Elvis Vermeulen
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Nicolas Mas, Arnaud Mela, Julien Bonnaire, Morgan Parra, David Skrela, Aurelien Rougerie.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

see also
Hadden laments Scotland mistakes
03 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Scotland v France ratings
03 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Scotland v France as it happened
03 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Scotland v France photos
03 Feb 08 |  Rugby Union
Chris Cusiter's column
01 Feb 08 |  Scottish
Beaumont tips Scots to surprise
31 Jan 08 |  Sport Relief
Scotland drop Paterson to bench
01 Feb 08 |  Scottish
Marty replaces Fritz for France
30 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations Young Guns - John Barclay
27 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations Young Guns - Nick de Luca
27 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
France ring changes for Scotland
22 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Depleted Scotland call up Murray
14 Jan 08 |  Scottish
Murray left out of Scotland squad
08 Jan 08 |  Scottish
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment

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