HomeSportGallant Scotland fall to late penalty in France

Gallant Scotland fall to late penalty in France

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Scotland and Rory Darge saw their winning run end in FranceFrance (13) 30Tries: Ntamack, Penaud, Ollivon Cons: Ramos 3 Pens: Ramos 3Scotland (10) 27Tries: Steyn 2, Van der Merwe, Darge Con: Russell 2 Pen: RussellScotland were edged out by World Cup hosts France in an enthralling contest.Kyle Steyn crossed in the opening minutes for the Scots but Romain Ntamack’s try helped the French to a 13-10 half-time lead.Damien Penaud and Charles Ollivon went over in quick succession as Les Bleus built a commanding lead, but Duhan van der Merwe, Rory Darge and another Steyn try hauled Scotland level.A late Thomas Ramos penalty got France over the line with a 30-27 win.Scotland face Georgia at Murrayfield in their final World Cup warm-up match on Saturday, 26 August, with Gregor Townsend naming his final 33-man squad for the tournament on Wednesday. The Scots open their Pool B campaign against holders South Africa on 10 September.Last weekend’s thrilling comeback to beat the French would have been a great confidence booster for the Scots, but this France team was unrecognisable from the second string that were on show at Murrayfield. The big guns were back. The hosts’ World Cup preparations started here.On a hot, sticky evening it was imperative Scotland started well. In fact, they started brilliantly. Finn Russell’s pin-point kick from deep caused mayhem in the French defence and ultimately brought the Scots a 5m attacking lineout. From there they worked a position from which to strike, putting it wide for Steyn to dive over in the corner.The old Scottish Achilles’ heel of botched restarts reared its ugly head to allow Ramos to bang over a penalty for France, though Russell responded in kind moments later to restore the seven-point advantage.For the next 10 minutes France laid siege to the Scottish line, forcing a succession of 5m lineouts and penalties. Rather than keeping their foot on Scotland’s throats, France surprisingly elected to opt for another three points from the boot of Ramos.Ali Price was sin-binned for a cynical, though necessary, tackle on Antoine Dupont, having failed to retreat 10m from a penalty. Dupont thought he had scored moments later, only for the try to be ruled out when the referee’s assistant ruled, incorrectly as it turned out, that the number nine had a foot in touch earlier in the move.France made their numerical advantage pay just after the half-hour mark, Dupont peeling off the base of the scrum and feeding Ntamack to glide through the Scottish defence to score. Half-time came as welcome relief to the visitors and going in just three points down was a decent outcome after all France’s pressure.That hard work was undone somewhat just a minute into the second half when Pierre Schoeman needlessly fumbled and from the turnover the ball found its way to Penaud, who found his way to the line.The greatness of this French team, and many French teams in the past, is their ability to explode into life in devastating bursts and within two minutes they were back under Scotland’s sticks with a brilliant counter attack.A quick lineout midway inside their own half set Dupont free. He found Ramos, who scorched up the touchline and then fed Ollivon in support to gallop to the line. Having been right in the game at the break, the Scots looked bamboozled and, at 27-10 down, in a lot of trouble.Penaud thought he had grabbed his second try only for the TMO to spot a knock on from Ntamack just before he grounded.Scotland rallied from 19 points down to give the French an almighty fright in Paris in this year’s Six Nations, and turned around an 18-point half-time deficit to beat them on home soil last weekend, but a similar revival was unlikely in Saint Etienne. Or was it?Huw Jones offered hope with a searing break that would have brought the centre a try were it not for some brilliant last-ditch defending from Penaud, though Van der Merwe was on hand to finish things off.The game had seemed dead and buried, but when Darge burrowed over after a quick tap penalty from Russell, suddenly it was a five-point game.Les Bleus looked ready to hit back immediately when Gabin Villiere slipped through a succession of weak Scottish tackles, that was until substitute Ollie Smith showed them how it’s done, poleaxing the winger and dislodging the ball as he closed in on the Scottish line.The Scots struck again eight minutes from time. Blair Kinghorn broke through the French defence before substitute George Horne’s clever grubber sat up perfectly for Steyn to gather and dive over for his second try and level things up at 27-27.The fairy tale finish was not to be for Scotland, a scrum penalty allowing Ramos to bang over the winning kick two minutes from the end.The French were probably good value for their win overall, but the character and ability shown by Scotland to run one of the World Cup favourites so close will stand them in good stead for next month, when the real stuff starts.Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend on Amazon Prime: “I’m really proud of the effort and how we started the game. We were ambitious, accurate, physical and we had to soak up a lot of pressure in that first half when we were a man down. We missed the first five to 10 minutes of the second half and France got opportunities.”We’re gutted that we didn’t get anything out of that. It shows a lot for the character and competitiveness of the group. It’s disappointing that we didn’t win it. Even a draw would have been something we could take more positives out of. There’s so much more to come from this team.”We showed in the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes that we can win ball, our set piece can be strong and also we can attack and score great tries. We have to do that for much longer.”Line-upsFrance: Ramos, Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Villiere, Ntamack, Dupont, Baille, Marchand, Aldegheri, Woki, Flament, Boudehent, Ollivon, Alldritt.Replacements: Bielle-Biarrey for Ntamack (55), Lucu for Dupont (68), Gros for Baille (48), Bourgarit for Marchand (49), Atonio for Aldegheri (49), Chalureau for Flament (63), Verhaeghe for Alldritt (66). Not Used: Macalou.Scotland: Kinghorn, Steyn, Jones, Tuipulotu, Van Der Merwe, Russell, Price, Schoeman, Turner, Nel, R. Gray, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Darge, Dempsey.Replacements: Smith for Kinghorn (63), Horne for Price (55), Sutherland for Schoeman (55), McInally for Turner (55), Sebastian for Nel (55), Cummings for R. Gray (64), Skinner for Gilchrist (55). Not Used: Bayliss. Sin Bin: Price (28).

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