While in his post-match interview Man of the Match Stuart Hogg admitted that although Scotland “Had poor performances in the past […] [today’s performance] makes amends.” It seemed as though Scotland’s performance was not only intended to sure up support from an oft-disappointed crowd but also to cement the confidence of the team itself following their 36-20 win in Rome.
It was clear watching Scotland beat France 29-18 that the squad was shaking off the demons of defeat and rising, triumphant, into a much improved position for their meeting with Ireland next week.
Not only did Sunday’s match ended a dispiriting trend of seven home defeats at Murrayfield in a row but also a dismal record against France which saw their last victory against the team in 2006.
A 4th minute try by hooker Guilhem Guirado who artly avoided a last minute tackle from Stuart Hogg could have dented Scottish confidence however a late surge of intensity in the first half resulted in two tries in three minutes at the end of the first half courtesy of Hogg and Duncan Taylor.
Both player’s individual effort was admirable. Taylor’s individual effort was blinding as he made up a total of 79m – the highest of the game. Hogg, under pressure throughout, bristled with verve and attacking threat. The crowning glory of his performance arguably being the enormous 54m penalty he managed to slot between the goalposts. Dual code star Jonathan Davies told the 5 Nations Forum that he believed that Hogg’s performance made it ”his best game so far” as he noted the improved maturity of his game.
His strength ensured he was fully deserving of his Man of the Match accolade and was particularly important given the loss of play-making fly-half Finn Russell to injury early on. Another dependable Scot was Greg Laidlaw who accrued a total of 11 points throughout the game.
To dwell on individual stars too long would be a mistake, however, as the team as a whole produced a cohesive showing. A far cry from the squad that made a plethora of mistakes against England earlier in the competition, Scotland made the most of a weak French game which in itself was filled with handling errors.
While French coach Guy Noves told French TV Channel France 2 that it was “more us losing the game than them winning it” the statistics show that Noves’ spin gives too little credit to Scotland. Scotland enjoyed 59% of posession, 57% of territory and won 9 scrums against Le Blues which only goes to show the Celtic threat in set pieces.
In a pre-match press conference Scotland Coach Vern Cotter, admitted that the team were expecting their opponents to conform to the French custom of being ”confrontational and [..][trying] to keep the ball alive” so admitted that they “would have to put in a great defensive performance” in order to find success.
Throughout the game French attacks were rebuffed by a strong Scottish defence and while to France’s credit they continued to push well into the 79th minute. Scotland oozed a confidence that was simultaneously building on and being built by their success.
The Murrayfield crowd may be partly to thank for such a confident Scottish performance. As the uplifting verses of Flower of Scotland rang out across the stadium in the last minutes it seemed as if the Scotland supporters were indeed determined they would send the French “homeward tae think again.”
Image courtesy of Richard Webb (CC BY-SA 2.0)