In the states, this is a superbowl weekend. The Americans are settling in for their contest in a game nobody else in the world seriously plays - in Europe at the moment we have the six nations. Five weekends of an annual rugby union tournament between England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. The third match of the opening weekend was Scotland vs. France - and as with the other games this weekend, there wasn't a helmet in sight. The game started with a silence, and then into the anthems. What anthems.
The Marseillaise especially shows what a feeble tune 'God Save the Queen' is (GSTQ shouldn't be used for England games as it's an anthem for the UK - Wales and Scotland don't use it). 'The Flower of Scotland' (though a bit bland) was well sung, and there were was something about it today that made me sit up. It was, I think, the crowd continuing long after the piper had finished.
Scotland opened the scoring with a penalty following hands in the ruck.
Nigel Owens made a big call in the 10th minute by denying what looked like a messy French try, on the advice of his touch judge he went to the TMO and was vindicated. Good eyes, referee.
There was sustained pressure on the Scottish try line as a result, with several scrum attempts play eventually resumed (Scotland had to be getting close to a penalty try). The ball inched toward the line, with France seeming to try to push it over, then France suddenly went wide and Matthieu Bastareaud got the ball down.
Scotland had a good run of attack following a successful penalty kick from France's Parra, but the attack broke down due to a knock-on. Fortunately they had advantage and so returned for a penalty. Chris Paterson kicked for three points, bringing the score to 6-8 in favour of France.
With a good piece of running play, Bastereaud came down the wing, sidestepping and threatening to pass to the outside man, he took the ball over the line. Parra converts to bring the score to 6-15.
Minutes remaining in the half and France put pressure on the French once more. Two metres in front of the posts, the Scots stopped the advance. France got the ball out after an extended ruck and went in again. Quick ball, and the ball went left to the wing, then right back toward the posts - the Scots managed to get the turnover and with 15 seconds remaining on the clock they kicked the ball out. The Scots won the line out, and looked like they'd attack - but after that attack died the ball went straight to touch.
At the end of the first half, the stats showed that France had 73% of territory in the first half. Crikey.
There wasn't a good restart for Scotland. Within four minutes they'd conceded a penalty for being offise at the ruck. Parra converted to bring the score to 6-18.
Benjamin Fall for France made an impressive run following an interception, getting to the line. Unfortunately for him, Nigel Owens had already blown the whistle for a penalty - Paterson kicked it over to bring the score to 9-18.
The rest of the game had some close moments, but no scores went in. France's win by 9 points understates just how throughly they beat Scotland today.
France remain in contention for the Grand Slam; Scotland are still in contention for the Wooden Spoon and the Whitewash.
|Table Built: Sunday, 7 February 2010 16:56 UK|
The six nations resumes next weekend - and for Americans, at least some matches are shown on BBC America.