France too good for Scotland

A new era in French rugby got off to a positive start with a comprehensive 27-6 defeat of Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.


New coach Marc Lievremont’s starting line-up feature four players making their debuts, including 21-year-old flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc.


But they never looked in danger of losing against a much more experienced Scots line-up.


With Murrayfield spared the high winds and snow that had been feared, the French backline saw plenty of the ball and a couple of tries from Toulouse’s Vincent Clerc and one for fellow wing Julien Malzieu anchored what was a much more comfortable victory than anyone had expected.


With the most reliable goalkicker in world rugby, Chris Paterson, restricted to the Scots’ bench, head coach Frank Hadden had invested heavily in the ability of his flyhalf, Dan Parks, to cope with the pressure of taking on that role.


The Australian-born number ten offered early reassurance, confidently slotting over a fourth-minute drop goal before finding touch within 10 yards of the French line from deep inside his own half.


But the Scots early pressure was soon punctured by a slick French counter-attack, Clerc cutting in from the right wing and indulging in a delightful exchange of passes with fullback Cedric Heymans before touching down to the right of the posts.


Damien Traille then slotted over a penalty from the half-way line to extend the French lead.


It was then that Parks’s afternoon began to unravel. Having dragged the most straightforward of penalties wide, the Scots number ten gifted Malzieu a try to mark his international debut.


Having taken a quick tap penalty, the Clermont youngster lofted it towards the Scots line. Charging after it, he could scarcely have believed his luck as full-back Rory Lamont completely missed the ball, leaving Parks frantically attempting to cover.


As he attempted to hack clear, the flyhalf succeeded only in slicing the ball into Malzieu’s midriff and the debutant’s reflexes were quick enough for him to hold on to it and touch down between the posts.


Parks made partial amends with a penalty on the half-hour mark to reduce the deficit to 17-6 but the Scots had to rely on Elissalde missing two straightforward penalties not to fall further behind before half-time.


Kicking duties were duly handed back to Traille and the Biarritz centre extended the French lead ten minutes after the restart when the Scots were penalised for collapsing the scrum.


Any prospect of a Scots fightback disappeared with quarter of an hour left when Clerc threaded a grubber kick down the right touchline and, with the help of a couple of freakishly fortunate bounces, was able to collect and go over for his second try.


The experienced David Skrela, who replaced a tiring Trinh-Duc with an hour gone, slotted over the conversion to make it 27-6.


Scorers


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


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


Teams

Scotland (15-1) Rory Lamont; Nikki Walker, Nick De Luca, Andrew Henderson, Simon Webster; Dan Parks, Mike Blair; Dave Callam, John Barclay, Jason White (capt); Jim Hamilton, Nathan Hines; Euan Murray, Ross Ford, Allan Jacobsen Replacements: Fergus Thomson, Gavin Kerr, Scott MacLeod, Kelly Brown, Chris Cusiter, Chris Paterson, Hugo Southwell


France (15-1) Cedric Heymans; Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Damien Traille, Julien Malzieu; Francois Trinh-Duc, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde; Thierry Dusautoir, Elvis Vermeulen, Fulgence Ouedraogo; Lionel Nallet (capt), Loic Jacquet; Julien Brugnaut, William Servat, Lionel Faure Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Nicolas Mas, Arnaud Mela, Julien Bonnaire, Morgan Parra, David Skrela, Aurelien Rougerie

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