Duhan van der Merwe’s last gasp try overcame a late red card for Finn Russell and Scotland’s supreme effort in the rain in the Stade de France ended their long struggle for a win in Paris.
France were nowhere near the 21-point deficit they needed to deprive Wales of the 2021 Six Nations Championship and in the end couldn’t even get the win. The Scots had victory in their sights in the final ten minutes, but Russell’s dismissal for an illegal fend-off of Bruce Dulin with nine minutes remaining seemed to put it out of reach.
The Scots could be proud of the effort, but there were simply too many penalties and a spell of half-an-hour either side of half-time when they allowed France to gain too much control.
Stuart Hogg was yellow carded as well as Russell’s red, but France’s too-frantic play in search of the big margin they needed allowed Scotland to stay in range at all times.
And, with the clock four minutes into the red at the end, they hammered the French line and set up van der Merwe to score his second try for an incredible victory.
With the rain tumbling down in Paris, Scotland had France reeling a little in the first 25 minutes, but the home side roared back with power and precision, earning a three-point and a man advantage by the break.
France clearly wanted to keep the ball in play as much as possible, but it wasn’t the greatest tactic to play from their 22 quite so much in the constant rain.
Scotland built a deserved lead after N’tamack’s early penalty. Super kicks by Russell and Hogg pinned France back, and when they infringed at a maul in their own half Scotland made it count.
Twice George Turner made bursts off the back of a driving lineout, and the second time van der Merwe joined the forwards to dip under a tackle and score.
The wing looked like he made a second movement in scoring, but his seventh try in nine tests counted and Russell converted.
Another attempt by France to run from their own line three minutes later saw Jamie Ritchie pounce for the jackal and the penalty. Russell kicked Scotland 10-3 in front and the French were struggling.
However, a big turnover in midfield signalled the home team starting to play a more controlled game. They won a penalty at a scrum which N’tamack landed on 26 minutes, and another penalty at the restart gave them possession back in Scotland’s half immediately.
The Scots soon found themselves under relentless pressure giving up too many penalties. After the French scrummed two in front of the posts, van der Merwe’s missed tackle out wide on Penaud allowed Dulin to score in support.
How good, lads! 🏴 pic.twitter.com/nKZcEphE6y
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 26, 2021
N’tamack converted and the momentum stayed with France, Hogg yellow carded as the latest of multiple offences were needed to stop the rampant home side.
There was a little relief when Scot pinched the resultant lineout and cleared their lines to regroup just three points down.
Scotland seemed to be coping decently a man down early in the second half, but a too-long box kick sparked the French backs to a rare moment of cohesion and a super try.
Dulin marked the kick and set off at pace, N’tamack and then Vakatawa off-loaded and Penaud found space with the extra man to chip over van der Merwe and win the race with the covering Ali Price to score.
Scotland were back to 15 and forced some pressure for the first time in half an hour’s play, France giving up the penalty in front of the posts and Russell taking the three points.
A great lineout move nearly sprung Sam Johnson near the posts, but France infringed again in defence as danger loomed, and Scotland went for the corner.
The Scots’ maul was disrupted, but it was ripped back for replacement Cherry to skip through a static French defence for a gift try, Russell converting.
But a needless penalty at a lineout near halfway gave France a platform to drive inside the Scotland 22 again, and lock Swan Rebbaj crashed over for an unconverted try to restore their lead.
But as Scotland pressed turning down kickable penalties in the French 22, Russell was adjudged to have fended to Dulin’s throat as he tried to go through and was shown the red card.
Scotland were down a man just for a minute as replacement French scrum-half Baptiste Serin was yellow-carded for interfering as the Scots continued to battle. But they lost a maul and then a scrum penalty and France were able to survive.
But France still tried to run out of defence in injury-time, gave up a penalty and the Scots had the platform to eventually work space for van der Merwe’s winner.