Mathieu Bastareaud’s brace handed France an easy 18-9 win over Scotland at Murrayfield.
The 21-year-old was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he alleged he’d been attacked in New Zealand last June, which was later proved to be a lie. Reports suggested Bastareaud was suffering from depression in the aftermath due to the embarrassment, but there was no sense of inadequacy from the hulking centre in Edinburgh, who was beastly on defence and threatening on attack all day.
But it would be unfair to give all the credit to Bastareaud, as the French scrum set the platform and No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy also had an industrious outing.
Both sides attempted an expansive approach early on, but France were made to pay when an intercept led to Chris Paterson slotting a penalty after 10 minutes. The French initially adopted a risky approach, but showed how brilliant they could be when replacement winger Vincent Clerc was only held up over the line due to some desperate defence.
But they wouldn’t be denied when minutes later Bastareaud finished off after good work from the pack. Les Bleus’ scrum marched the Scots back, Harinordoquy surged powerfully on two occasions, and flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc’s pass found the French centre, who claimed his first international try.
For all their endeavour, the Scots rarely broke the line with the French rushing up in defence. The visitors again should have scored when Phil Godman’s kick was charged down, but Trinh-Duc didn’t have the pace and was held up inches short.
For all their dominance, the French only held a two-point lead late in the first half when Morgan Parra and Paterson traded penalties. However, Bastareaud went over untouched as the 110kg centre finished off another France attack to ensure a nine-point cushion at the break.
The Scots changed their approach after the break and attempted a territorial based game, but this ploy came 40 minutes too late. With the French scrum still tormenting the Scots they never had the platform to work from, while they looked confused as to what game they wanted to play.
France laboured in the second half once the result was clear, but they’ll realise they need an 80-minute performance when they face Ireland at Stade de France next week in a match that should have a significant bearing on the outcome of the Championship.
By Grant Ball