What do the French think of Scotland?
An epic battle in the constant rain of Paris on Friday evening decided the outcome of this year's Six Nations. Six attempts in difficult conditions, but it was a great evening of rugby for neutral fans. Only France's fans will certainly be disappointed in the end. Not only was it not enough for the title despite some great playful moments in the meantime - les Bleus also gave away the victory completely unnecessarily in stoppage time.
When Damien Penaud made what was by far the best attempt of the evening in the sixth minute of the second half and brought France into the lead with 18-10, hope was there - there were "only" two attempts to win the tournament missing. Conclusion Brice Dulin had started a counterattack from his own 22 and two offloads later the ball landed at Virimi Vakatawa, who accelerated into the gap between two defenders and served his outside Penaud with a backhand pass when he fell. It took nothing less than the perfect overkick to make France's second attempt.
It was not necessarily the night for the beautiful game that the French had recently cultivated so much in Paris on Friday evening. In the pouring continuous rain under the floodlights of the Stade de France, it was difficult for les Bleus to combine. The slippery ball became a problem again and again - the Scots, in turn, quickly recognized the signs of the times and put France under constant pressure with perfect kicks from Verbinder Russel and Ende Hogg.
Combining yourself from the very back in difficult conditions, always knowing you had to win with 21 points, was usually too high a hurdle for France. Scotland, on the other hand, was more pragmatic - the guest team came to France-22 after a quarter of an hour. The strikers didn't make it from close range, but super outside Duhan van der Merwe, who uncompromisingly took his head down from close range and heaved himself over the line.
The detailed highlights of the Paris rain battle on Friday evening
France's best phase was shortly before and after the break after a temporary deficit of 3-10. It took a long period of pressure from France until Scotland's defense finally gave way in the 36th minute - after a 5-meter scrum, Dupont served outside Penaud, who helped Dulin to try with a step and inside pass. Then after the break, the said miracle attempt by Penaud after an 80-meter counterattack like from a picture book.
The coldest of all showers on a rainy evening came 20 minutes before the end when Scotland equalized. France's inexperienced second-row striker Swan Rebbadj had legally torn the leather out of a Scottish package - but the game device bounced off like a pinball and landed in the hands of Scotland's hackler Cherry, who did not ask twice and put it down.
18-20 from the French point of view with only 19 minutes left on the clock - France's dream of the first Six Nations victory since 2010 seemed to be slowly slipping away. But almost in return France's angry response and this time Sturm-Hüne Rebbadj was able to use his power better and work his way across the line with a lot of power. Like last week, les Bleus had 15 minutes left for the miracle - but at 23-20 the French were still 18 points short.
The final settlement after the Six Nations 2021
In the short term, French hope sprang up again when Finn Russel saw a hard red card because of a dangerous hand defense in Dulin's throat. But France's substitute striker Romain Taofifénua made this numerical superiority with the probably stupidest yellow ever to avoid. He was warned several times by Wayne Barnes during a Scottish package that he was going the wrong way, but only did so with arms outstretched and by obstructing Scotland's price of nine.
The seconds passed and France should have won the game, after all, the Scots lost the leather in the 81st minute, which fell into the arms of Brice Dulin at the end. But the otherwise great playing fullback didn't really know what to do with the ball and instead of kicking it out, he caused a penalty meters in front of his own line.
So it happened, as it had to: Scotland besieged the line once again for four full minutes with countless storm phases - France was able to hold back the strong Scots storm, but replacement connector Hastings finally levered the defensive with an overpass - Duhan van der Merwe could take off for the victorious attempt.
France missed the dream of a Six Nations victory, but the defensive bonus for the narrow defeat still means second place in the overall statement. There is still a lot of work left for the young France team, but also more than two years until the 2023 World Cup. Perhaps more would have been possible on Friday evening with 81,000 fans in the back, but primarily there was a lack of cleverness.
Scotland, on the other hand, is emerging as a future title contender with victories over England and France. The current Scottish team is arguably the strongest since the Five Nations winners in 1999 and with Duhan van der Merwe has probably the most formidable outside. The Welsh people are likely to look to the future with similar optimism - the players of the new Six Nations winner will have looked nervously at the screen for 60 minutes, but now the most surprising title has been set for a long time. Coach Pivac, who was still considered a wobbly candidate in the autumn, is now more firmly in the saddle than ever.
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