Mohamed Haouas collected a costly red card as France’s bid for a Six Nations Grand Slam triumph was comprehensively ended in a 28-17 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.
After successes against England, Italy and Wales, championship leaders Les Bleus saw their winning run halted after Haouas was dismissed for punching Jamie Ritchie in the face in the 37th minute on Sunday.
France – fast starters in their prior three matches – had recovered from a slow initial spell to score through the fit-again Damian Penaud, but Scotland dominated against 14 men.
Sean Maitland crossed either side of half-time, and Stuart McInally’s fortuitous third try secured an ultimately straightforward home victory, despite Charles Ollivon’s late reply.
France lacked rhythm for much of the first half and Francois Cros was sent to the sin bin after just five minutes when his tackle led to Grant Gilchrist’s awkward landing, before Romain Ntamack was lost to a head injury.
Scotland led when Adam Hastings kept his nerve from the tee, and a sweetly struck second penalty from the same man secured a six-point advantage that lasted until the 33rd minute.
Les Bleus suddenly moved through the gears with the break approaching, as Antoine Dupont’s gorgeous cross-field kick found Penaud on the right for the opening try.
All the angles!!
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However, the fracas involving Haouas and Ritchie took the match away from the visitors, the blow to the Scotland man’s head the most serious incident in a clash involving multiple players from both sides.
Hastings’ latest kick subsequently restored a Scottish lead, and he wasted little time in carrying his side forward once more, resulting in Maitland’s rapid try on the stroke of half-time.
Improvement in the France ranks briefly threatened a resilient second period, only for a speedy break to free Maitland once again on the right wing.
Matthieu Jalibert dispatched a penalty just after the hour mark, but there would be no dramatic fightback as McInally profited on a lucky bounce from his own poor lineout to run clear.
Ollivon battled through to claim reward for a defiant display with four minutes remaining, at least providing encouragement heading into another key clash with Ireland.
Ntamack’s sloppy start
The France fly-half had contributed 39 points – including two tries – across his first three matches of an outstanding campaign, but this was not his day. Ntamack lasted just eight minutes, in which time he sent a penalty swirling wide and then took a whack to the head, forcing his exit following a fumble that gave Scotland an early foothold.
Haouas hinders title hopes
France had only just belatedly turned up and claimed the lead through a fine try when Haouas undid their hard work. There was pushing and shoving on either side in front of the French posts, but the visiting number three could have no complaints as he was singled out after an awful swing at Ritchie.
Maitland’s favoured foes
Scotland still had to put the 14 men to the sword, and Maitland’s clinical finishing did the job. This was his third appearance against France at Murrayfield and he has scored on each occasion.
Key Opta Facts
– Scotland have won back-to-back Test matches against France for the first time since 1963-64, having also won against Les Bleus in August 2019.
– Ollivon has become just the second forward to score four tries in a Six Nations campaign after Imanol Harinordoquy, who achieved the feat in 2004. No forward has ever scored more tries in an edition of the Five or Six Nations.
– Scotland’s 11-point win was their joint-biggest victory over France in the Six Nations, alongside their 29-18 win at Murrayfield in 2016.
France can still recover the Six Nations title. Level on points with England entering the final round, Les Bleus host Ireland next Saturday. Scotland finish their campaign with a trip to Wales earlier in the same day.
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