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Scotland stage superb comeback to beat France

Scotland stage superb comeback to beat France

Darcy Graham

Fourteen-man Scotland edged France 25-21 in a thrilling encounter at Scottish Gas Murrayfield to extend their winning start to the Summer Nations Series.

Gregor Townsend’s side overcame a 21-3 half-time deficit and a red card to prop Zander Fagerson to register a second successive triumph following victory over Italy last week.

A changed France side earlier carved Scotland apart in the first half with tries from Baptiste Couilloud, Louis Bielle-Biarrey and Cameron Woki.

Scotland looked a team transformed after the break and struck early through Darcy Graham before tries from Pierre Schoeman and Dave Cherry saw them claim an unlikely win after Fagerson’s dismissal in the 53rd minute.

Scotland had earlier made a bright start, with Finn Russell knocking over the first points of the match inside four minutes.

After a scrum penalty against prop Demba Bamba for pushing up rather than straight, Russell and co opted against kicking for touch, favouring the old Test match adage of early points on the board.

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But that was as good as it got for Scotland in a first half where France’s fringe stars fizzed and popped in the first of three auditions for a Rugby World Cup squad place.

Their first try was the product of two youth stars determined to make an impact on the global stage after lighting up the under-20s scene for the last 18 months.

Wing Bielle-Biarrey and centre Emilien Gailleton exchanged passes on the right touchline before the former fed Matthieu Jalibert on the inside, who gave scrum-half partner Baptiste Couilloud the simplest of finishes under the posts.

After Jalibert knocked over the extras, Yoram Moefana came close to a second after a devastating turn of speed, but the wing was denied via a last-ditch tackle from Duhan van der Merwe.

While the result was not going in the favour of the Edinburgh crowd, they were certainly being treated to a performance to remember from young Bielle-Biarrey, who burst away from Hamish Watson for France’s second.

The Bordeaux star looped round off his wing to gather from Jalibert, who himself delivered an eye-catching performance in the absence of Romain Ntamack.

A perfect half for France met a brilliant end, as the forwards got on the scoresheet through Cameron Woki, as the second row stretched over on his first international start of the year.

Scotland started the second period with much greater intent and reduced the arrears to 21-10, thanks to Darcy Graham’s third try of the Summer Nations Series.

With penalty advantage inside the France 22, Russell opened his body up before nailing a typically pinpoint crossfield kick, to which Graham just beat opposite man Ethan Dumortier.

For the first time, France were suddenly retreating and their hosts came within five metres of the whitewash gain before a brilliant turnover from hooker Pierre Bourgarit.

The momentum stayed with them, even after a red card for Zander Fagerson.

The prop was initially shown yellow by Ben O’Keefe after making contact with Bourgarit’s head, but the decision was later upgraded to a red in one of the first uses of the ‘Bunker’ review system at Test level.

Moments before news of Fagerson’s permanent exclusion was conveyed, Pierre Schoeman powered over from close range to make it 21-17, with Russell adding the extras.

The drama kept coming, with Player of the Match Kinghorn seemingly having given Scotland the lead only for his try to be disallowed for an earlier knock-on from Graham.

But Scotland kept the pressure up, and after resisting the opportunity to kick for goal on multiple occasions from close range, they were rewarded when replacement hooker Dave Cherry touched down from the back of a lineout drive.

Russell’s conversion from wide struck then struck the upright, leaving Scotland just a point clear heading into the final quarter.

The talismanic fly-half then sent over a penalty to stretch the lead to four points entering the final minutes and despite late pressure, Scotland held out for a fine victory.

The pair will lock horn again in a week’s time in Saint-Étienne, as France welcome Scotland to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

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