Scotland 32-26 France: Greig Laidlaw inspires Scotland to Six Nations victory
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 11/02/18 10:14pm
Greig Laidlaw kicked 22 points as Scotland secured a hard-fought 32-26 victory over France at Murrayfield in the Six Nations.
The scrum-half, recalled to the starting XV for the second game of their campaign, was instrumental as Gregor Townsend's side prayed on France's ill-discipline in the second half.
France had led by 20-14 at the break after two tries from Teddy Thomas and 10 points off the tee from Maxime Machenaud.
Sean Maitland and Huw Jones were Scotland's try-scorers along with Laidlaw's first-half conversions.
The second half saw Laidlaw immediately commence the scoring and he traded penalties with replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin to make it a six-point game at 20-26 going into the final quarter.
Four perfect kicks at goal from the 32-year-old followed as Scotland bounced back from their opening-weekend defeat to Wales.
Early loose tackles proved to be costly for Scotland as Thomas picked up where he left off in round one. Geoffrey Doumayrou's pass wide bounced off the floor and into the hands of Thomas, who slipped out of the clutches of three Scottish defenders en route to the line.
Machenaud added the conversion and then extended their lead out to 10 points after the same number of minutes with a penalty.
Scotland's response arrived three minutes later following a patient build-up. Jonny Gray carried hard through the middle of the park and then neatly found his second-row partner Grant Gilchrist.
The lock kept the ball alive well and Russell finished the incisive moved with well-weighted final ball out to winger Sean Maitland.
Laidlaw duly added the conversion and after a slow start, Scotland had navigated their way back in the contest at 7-10 after 14 minutes played.
A loose kick from Russell was the catalyst for Thomas' second try of the game.
The winger broke with pace and once again put boot to ball. The last Scottish man back, Laidlaw, looked to have it covered however the bounce of the ball sat up perfectly for Thomas, and Machenaud's extras extended France's lead back out to ten points.
Scotland responded yet again just after the half-hour mark. Stuart Hogg's break forwards put Les Bleus off-kilter in defence and Laidlaw's quick inside ball found Huw Jones.
Jones' line for the five-pointer was direct and precise however France would yet have the final say of the half.
Gray was penalised for interfering in the air and Machenaud duly slotted the penalty kick at goal to give them a narrow 20-14 lead at the break.
The home side opened their account first in the second 40 minutes as Laidlaw connected with what would be the first of six successful second-half penalties.
Twice replacement scrum-half Serin responded for the visitors and that made with 20-26 going into the final quarter.
In the latter stages it was a tale of two sides, the home team kept their discipline well whilst France's broke down.
From going straight off their feet to scrum penalties, Laidlaw made every scoring opportunity count for Scotland to take them 32-26 ahead.
One from each side. First let's focus on the hosts and their ability to keep their cool and edge out a nip-and-tuck match.
After the lows of their defeat in Cardiff, and the questions posed at them all week, Gregor Townsend's side kept their composure and delivered a vital result.
For France, Teddy Thomas is bang in form and a joy to watch. He's a clinical finisher and all French fans would like to see him with more ball in hand, roaming about the field a little more. A word also for Lionel Beauxis, it wasn't perfect but he largely delivered on his international match for six years, a tough ask.
There's only one place to start here and that's with France's discipline.
Both sides finished the afternoon with penalty counts in double figures - 10 to Scotland and 13 to France - but it was the position of Les Bleus' infringements that made their life so difficult.
At Test level, kickers are always going to punish sides that give away easy points and adapting better during the course of the game must be one of the key messages that Jacques Brunel instils in his players during this fallow week.
Stat of the match
A record that makes for excellent reading for Scotland's fans and one that will be put to the test against England in Round 3.