Six Nations 2022: France march on with 36-17 bonus-point win over Scotland
Tries from Paul Willemse, Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty and Damian Penaud (2) secured a bonus-point win for France at Murrayfield; Rory Darge's score on his first Test start and a late finish from Duhan van der Merwe accounted for Scotland's tries
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 26/02/22 8:13pm
France took a significant step towards claiming the Six Nations title for the first time since 2010 with a six-try 36-17 victory against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Tries from Paul Willemse, Yoram Moefana and Gael Fickou helped France into a 19-10 lead at half-time, but Scotland could well have been much closer at the break had Stuart Hogg been able to add to Rory Darge's try from a scintillating attack.
Jonathan Danty sealed the bonus point for Les Bleus within two minutes of the restart and the finishing touches were put on the win by Damian Penaud grabbing a late double to ensure they made it three wins from three in this year's tournament.
Scotland 17-36 France scoring summary
Scotland: Tries - Rory Darge, Duhan van der Merwe; Conversions - Finn Russell (2); Penalties - Finn Russell.
France: Tries - Damian Penaud (2) Paul Willemse, Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty; Conversions - Melvyn Jaminet (3).
Story of the game
There were a few shaky moments for France early on as Romain Ntamack kicked the ball out on the full straight from the kick-off and Melvyn Jaminet missed a kickable penalty with both sides yet to get on the board.
Yet in the eighth minute it all clicked into gear for the visitors, with the backs and forwards working sublimely together. Antoine Dupont started the move after recovering a clearance kick and ghosting through the defence, followed by the pack taking over and Cyril Baille offloading for Willemse to crash over.
Jaminet added the extras and, although Finn Russell trimmed the deficit with a penalty three minutes later, France were soon in for their second try as they put together another scintillating attack which saw sumptuous offloads from Damian Penaud and Baille close to the touchline to set up Moefana to finish.
Scotland had shown some encouraging signs with the ball in hand, though, and a spell of pressure on the back to two errors from full-back Jaminet - the first seeing him fumble a kick and the second carelessly give away a penalty while trying to contest a high ball - led to the home side being rewarded in the 29th minute.
Scotland, already hit by injuries, were forced into a late change due to Hamish Watson testing positive for Covid-19 overnight. Nick Haining took his place on the flank, while elsewhere in the back row Rory Darge made his first Test start.
France were without Gabin Villiere due to a fractured sinus, with Jonathan Danty coming into the team at inside centre in the only change from the team which beat Ireland in Paris last time out.
Ali Price had been held up over the line as Scotland tried to turn the screw, but a penalty for a high tackle on the scrum-half allowed them to tap and go from close range, with Price sending flanker Darge over for his first Test try on his first Test start, with Russell converting.
Gregor Townsend's side then looked near-on certain to take a lead into the break on the back of a blockbusting break from Duhan van der Merwe. He in turn found Chris Harris who flung a cut-out pass to Hogg, but the full-back saw the ball slip through his grasp when it seemed he had a try-line at his mercy.
To make matters worse for Scotland, France managed to increase their lead before the half-time whistle as they worked a move following a penalty which saw Moefana break down the left and then outside centre Fickou run a smart line and step on the gas to burst through the defence wide on the right.
The try-scoring bonus point was secured two minutes after the restart as Fabien Galthie's side countered following a bright start from Scotland. Francois Cros forced a fumble from Price and Penaud set off down the right wing, with his chip-kick bouncing kindly for Danty to gather and race in from 20 metres out followed by Jaminet nailing the conversion.
Any hopes Scotland had of mounting an unlikely comeback were snuffed out just before the hour mark as Moefana's rip from Darge's grasp set in motion an attack which saw winger Penaud released down the right touchline to finish for an unconverted score and the Clermont man grabbed a second five minutes from time after collecting a pinpoint cross-field kick from Ntamack.
The home side did at least finish with a flourish as Duhan van der Merwe crossed for a converted consolation score just before the clock ticked past 80 minutes, but there was no stopping France from claiming a first win at Murrayfield for eight years.
What they said
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, speaking to the BBC
"We're gutted with that one. At times we played some decent rugby and got in decent areas, but we let ourselves down at vital times and credit to France, they took their opportunities when they were on offer. But did they have to work hard for the first three? Probably not - and that's the thing we're bitterly disappointed about.
"I let one go early doors which could have changed the whole momentum of the game. It's something I'm absolutely devastated with, but it is what it is. We'll stay tight, enjoy each others' company and we've got two more games to show what we're all about. At time we did show what it means to play for Scotland and at times we were far from good."
Six Nations standings (after Scotland 17-36 France)
France team manager Raphael Ibanez, speaking to the BBC
"We all think it was a very good team performance. The team responded well, it was our first away game in the Six Nations this year with some nice tries and discipline as well was key for the game. For the team, it's just another step towards the Six Nations.
"We just have to stay focused on ourselves, we know we still have room for improvement and it's not over just because we won the first three games. In one or two weeks it's going to be another big challenge and every game is different."
France now travel to Wales for a Friday night clash at the Principality Stadium on March 11 (8pm kick-off).
Scotland face a trip to Rome the following day when they take on Italy (2.15pm GMT).