France limped to an unspectacular 15-8 victory over a spirited Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday.
The Scots continued their recent improvement under New Zealander coach Vern Cotter with a solid defensive display that frustrated error-prone France.
The visitors to the Stade de France in Paris even scored the only try of the match right on the stroke of halftime through Dougie Fife’s first international score in his fourth match.
Mark Bennett’s show and go down the left helped Stuart Hogg carry the ball almost to the French line. Scotland then swung the ball right for prop Euan Murray to put Fife in to dive over in the corner. Scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw was unlucky to see his conversion hit the post, leaving France 9-8 ahead at the break.
Flyhalf Camille Lopez scored all France’s points.
However, it was a disjointed and lackluster performance from Philippe Saint-Andre’s side, despite the occasional linebreak.
Too many handling errors scuppered all their best work.
The only fillip was that France maintained their 100 percent record while wearing red — something they did for only the third time in their history.
Saint-Andre, who is yet to win a Six Nations title since assuming the reins after the 2011 World Cup, was left far from satisfied with the victory.
“We won,” the 47-year-old told the BBC. “However, we weren’t clinical enough, especially when we had a one-man advantage and didn’t score enough points when we had the chance.”
“There was not enough variety in our game,” he said. “Scotland played with a lot of spirit. For the game with Ireland [on Saturday] we need to show a lot of improvement.”
Meanwhile, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has warned the defending Six Nations champions they will have to up their game if they are to impress against France before the arguably tougher assignment of facing England.
Ireland took the first step toward defending their crown with a 26-3 win over long-suffering Italy. Conor Murray and Tommy O’Donnell scored second-half tries, while flyhalf Ian Keatley added 14 points with the boot.
Yet it was a largely disjointed performance from both sides at the Stadio Olimpico until Murray touched down just after the hour mark after the hosts were reduced to 14 men following Leonardo Ghiraldini’s trip to the sin bin.
Schmidt said he believes England “have set the benchmark” for this year’s tournament, and have already given his side a fair idea of what might be required if they are to emerge victorious in Dublin in three weeks’ time.
“The benchmark was set by England last night [Friday] in that second half... England just kept the pressure right on them,” he said.
“The physical nature of that battle ... it certainly means we’ve got a lot to do,” he said. “We’ll have to roll our sleeves up early on next week [Saturday] and hopefully put together a sufficiently improved performance to be competitive against France.”
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