France keep Six Nations hopes alive

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iol spt mar8 France-Scotland Reuters France kept their Six Nations titles hopes alive with a last gasp win away to Scotland at Murrayfield. Photo by: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

France kept their Six Nations titles hopes alive with a last gasp 19-17 win away to Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Scots were on the brink of winning their first Test in eight matches against France when New Zealand referee Chris Pollock awarded a debatable penalty in front of the posts as the ball came out from a ruck.

Replacement Jean-Marc Doussain made sure of the kick and there was barely any time left for Scotland to mount a comeback.

Victory -- France's first away from home since winning at Murrayfield two years ago -- left Philippe Saint-Andre's side in with a shout of a winner-takes-all clash with title rivals Ireland in Paris next week.

An entertaining first half ended with Scotland 14-9 in front after Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour scored tries converted by Greig Laidlaw, with recalled scrum-half Maxime Machenaud kicking three penalties for the visitors.

France wing Yoann Huget's converted intercept try early in the second half saw the French go 16-14 in front and threatened to knock the wind out of Scotland's sails.

But with fly-half Duncan Weir, whose last minute drop-goal secured a 21-20 win away to Italy, landing a key penalty after throwing the poor pass that led to Huget's try, Scotland had a one-point lead heading into the final quarter.

Scotland coach Scott Johnson recalled captain Kelly Brown in one of three changes to the pack.

Brown replaced Glasgow's Chris Fusaro, while Geoff Cross and David Denton also come into the pack in place of Moray Low and Ryan Wilson.

France kicked-off with a side showing seven changes to the one thrashed 26-7 by Wales last time out -- a loss that prompted Saint-Andre to label his team “cry babies”.

The very first scrum of the match saw France force a second-minute penalty which Machenaud kicked.

Eight minutes later good work by centres Maxime Mermoz and Mathieu Bastareaud took France to within sight of the try-line and Scotland were fortunate not to be a man down when they deliberately killed the ball in front of their posts.

Machenaud made no mistake and France were 6-0 in front.

But two minutes later Scotland took the lead.

Laidlaw put up a clever high kick over the try-line which Huget failed to catch under pressure from Scotland counterpart Sean Lamont.

But full-back Hogg, following up, touched down and Pollock, after consulting the television match official, awarded the try.

Another Machenaud penalty took France 9-7 in front only for Scotland, on a Murrayfield pitch still disfigured by a parasitic infection, to regain the lead with a well-worked try as centre Matt Scott's delightful inside pass released wing Seymour to score in the corner.

Shortly before half-time France full-back Brice Dulin revived memories of his celebrated predecessor Serge Blanco by running the ball out from under his own posts only for skipper Pascal Pape to cut short an enterprising move with a knock-on.

There was still time for France to be awarded another penalty but this time Machenaud missed.

Scotland started the second half on the attack only for Huget to intercept a 'telegraphed' looping pass from Weir, intended for Dunbar, and sprint some 90 metres for a try under the posts.

The Scots, however, rallied and forward pressure forced a scrum penalty on the hour.

But Laidlaw's 45-metre kick fell short.

That miss prompted Laidlaw to hand kicking duties to Weir and his 42-metre penalty put Scotland 17-16 in front.

And with six minutes remaining, the Scottish front row won another scrum penalty on a pitch that had yet again been turned into a bog.

But Weir's 44-metre kick lacked both distance and direction.

France then won a penalty of their own which they kicked downfield for an attacking line-out.

They regathered possession and advanced into Scotland's 22.

And then came Pollock's decisive intervention, which was desperately tough on Scotland, who'd shown more flair than France and lacked for nothing in the forward exchanges. – AFP


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