Classic match: Scotland stun France in opener

As we take a trip down memory lane to celebrate classic Six Nations matches, Scotland’s tenacious win against the French in 2006 is a certain highlight.

As we take a trip down memory lane to celebrate classic Six Nations matches, Scotland’s tenacious win against the French in 2006 is a certain highlight.

With a try in both halves from Sean Lamont, Scotland held off late pressure to give them a successful start to the campaign which would see them finish third, their best result in the Six Nations in five years.   SETTING THE SCENE

A year earlier, Scotland came fourth in the Championship with their only victory coming at Murrayfield against Italy in what would prove to be Australian head coach Matt Williams’ final campaign.

Edinburgh head coach Frank Hadden came in as interim coach for Scotland’s summer matches against Barbarians and Romania, both of which they won and thus the Dundee native was appointed national coach in September 2005.

As runners-up in 2005 France hit their stride in the Autumn Internationals, beating Australia 26-16, Canada 50-6, Tonga 43-8, and South Africa 26-20.

Thus, going into the 2006 Six Nations, the French were gunning for more success in the form of a Grand Slam title, and hadn’t lost in Scotland in a decade.   THE TEAMS

Jason White celebrated his 50th cap with the captaincy, having first led the team against Argentina in a close encounter the previous November when they lost by just four points.

Ally Hogg started in the back row having had a try disallowed when the two teams met in the Championship the year before.

Nine of the French starting line-up experienced the Grand Slam victory of 2004, with six of those also in the 2002 Grand Slam-winning squad.

Clear favourites for the match and the Championship, France had a cohesive team with a strong leader in Fabien Pelous, who still holds the record of appearances for the country.

They were, however, without Yannick Jauzion, the experienced centre, with Ludovic Valbon earning his first Championship start as a result, while the uncapped Guillaume Boussès was named on the bench.   HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED

After squandering vital chances early on, Scotland finally broke the French defence when the ball broke to Lamont, who skipped past Frédéric Michalak to touch down under the posts, which Chris Paterson converted.

Scotland continued to mount pressure on the French, earning a penalty which Paterson slotted to put the hosts 10-0 up.

Paterson and his half-back partner Mike Blair controlled the attack for the Scots and earned themselves another penalty, which again Paterson nailed.

Although the first half was all Scotland, France did manage to get off the mark to give themselves hope on the stroke of half-time, as Jean-Baptiste Elissalde knocked a penalty over.

But Scotland showed their power after the break, driving the French back with a maul that gained over 20 metres before Lamont dived over at the back and Paterson increased the hosts’ lead with the conversion.

France ramped up the pressure in search of a comeback, with Julien Bonnaire crossing following impressive hands through the backline, although Elissalde’s conversion attempt struck the post.

The two teams had a penalty apiece in quick succession, with Paterson missing his but Elissalde making up for his failed conversion with a well-struck kick to cut the deficit to nine points.

France refused to lay down and with less than five minutes remaining Sebastien Bruno found a hole in the Scottish defence to cross late on, but Elissalde was again unsuccessful with his conversion and Scotland stood strong to see out the final minutes for the win.   WHAT THEY SAID

Scotland head coach Frank Hadden said: “It was fantastic. I said we would be proud when we had done something special and I think we’ve done that today.

“We needed to get a result to confirm that we are on the road to something.

“We shouldn’t forget the quality of the opposition. It was an energy-sapping contest and the guys did a great job.”

Scotland captain Jason White said: “The difference is we have a happy squad and we are playing for each other. Frank told us to just go out and play and the pressure was taken off us.

“It is absolutely brilliant. We had a good week’s training and knew, if we played well, we had a chance of beating them.

“It was quite close at the end but we hung on for a great victory.”

France head coach Bernard Laporte said of his players: “They were all really good in November during the Test matches so we expected them to be as good in February.”

France captain Fabien Pelous said: “Losing doesn’t please anyone. But we will use this defeat as a lesson.”   WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

It appeared that France did indeed learn their lesson, as Les Bleus went unbeaten through the rest of the competition to take the Six Nations title, a third in five years.

That included a record victory over England in round four, before Florian Fritz’s try in the 80th minute against Wales that sealed the title.

Scotland, meanwhile, remained in contention until the final day, picking up wins over England and Italy in addition to their success against France.

While losses on the road in Wales and Ireland eventually cost them a shot at the title, it was a promising campaign for Hadden’s men.   Scotland 20-16 France Murrayfield Sunday 5 February 2006   Scotland: Southwell, Paterson, Di Rollo, Henderson, S Lamont, Parks, Blair, Kerr, Hall, Douglas, Kellock, Murray, White (c), Taylor, Hogg. Replacements: Lawson, Smith, MacLeod, Petrie, Cusiter, Ross, Webster.   France: Brusque, Dominici, Fritz, Valbon, Heymans, Michalak, Elissalde, Marconnet, Szarzewski, De Villiers, Pelous (c), Thion, Nyanga, Martin, Bonnaire. Replacements: Bruno, Milloud, Nallet, Lievremont, Yachvili, Boyet, Bousses.