Scotland fightback gains vital warm-up win over France

Sean Maitland and Chris Harris tries helped Scotland come from behind to claim an important World Cup warm-up win and a measure of revenge over France.

Sean Maitland and Chris Harris tries helped Scotland come from behind to claim an important World Cup warm-up win and a measure of revenge over France.

A week after a tough defeat in Nice to Les Bleus, Gregor Townsend’s much-changed side produced a fine second-half showing at BT Murrayfield.

Damian Penaud’s early double looked like handing France, who also downed Scotland in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, a second successive win.

But Scotland fought back, first through Sean Maitland before the break and then Harris on the hour mark while Greig Laidlaw also kicked an early penalty.

Hamish Watson returned in the back row with a man of the match outing but they will have to wait for injury news on Tommy Seymour, Blade Thomson and Sam Skinner who all limped off.

But for now Scotland can celebrate a victory that ends a five-match winless run for Townsend’s men while France’s struggles on the road continue.

Scotland have conceded a try inside two minutes in each of their last three Tests, stretching back to the Calcutta Cup classic in March.

This time it came via an interception, Peter Horne hurling a loose pass under pressure in midfield and Penaud pounced to pick it off and canter under the posts.

Thomas Ramos could not miss with the extras for a 7-0 lead and while Greig Laidlaw summoned an immediate response with a penalty, it was a first half hour to forget for the Scots.

Tommy Seymour limped off with an injury, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg’s kicking game was aimless and France were largely untroubled.

Their second score soon followed and again Scotland were their own worst enemies.

Russell spilled a high ball and when the ball was spread right Sofiane Guitoune – a late inclusion for the injured Wesley Fofana and making his first start in four years – left Ryan Wilson for dead and fed Penaud for an easy run in.

Ramos again added the extras for a 14-3 lead but Scotland finally got a foothold before the break.

Sean Maitland, one of the bright spots for Scotland in the first half, was the beneficiary.

France had an injury concern of their own as Camille Lopez limped off and his replacement Romain Ntamack was trying to lead an attack from deep when the ball was spilled, Seymour’s replacement Blair Kinghorn pounced and when the ball was finally spread left Russell floated a pass to Maitland to cruise in.

Laidlaw’s conversion snuck over as well and Scotland went into the break with a spring in their step, trailing only 14-10.

The second half began in similar fashion to the first, Penaud producing another interception but Scotland scramble defence hauled him down.

The third quarter was nip tuck, Scotland failing to gain much of a foothold in terms of territory but Kinghorn’s fine kick chase on the hour mark earned a penalty.

And after smashing away at the line following a lineout, Harris cut a good line back on a short Laidlaw pass to go under the posts.

The conversion was added for a 17-14 lead and France had it all to do in the final quarter.

But Scotland’s defence, barring the two Penaud scores, stood firm while Stuart Hogg’s chip chase came so close to sealing a Scotland win.

It was a very open finish but in the end it was Scotland who hung on, despite a creaking lineout, for a vital victory.