Scotland came back to Earth with a bump in Paris, producing one of their patented brave defeats when they could have pushed on to become genuine championship contenders. Not for the first time France rolled over the top of Scotland, literally leaving bodies strewn in its wake, debris that might have fatally dented their progress in this Championship.
1. Alan Dell – 3
Scotland got away with a dodgy scrum performance against the Irish, partly because the skill levels of both sides meant on the day there were very few scrums. This week was a very different story, time and again France were given easy exits and promising attacking positions through scrum penalties. I like mobile, skilful props as much as the next guy but the first job is to hold up your end of the scrum and Dell never got close. Better scrums than this Scotland eight will be battered by the French behemoth but still…
2. Fraser Brown – 7
OK, everything I said about the scrum applies to Brown too but the Glasgow hooker also produced a huge defensive shift with 14 tackles and a brilliant turnover when the French juggernaut was rolling towards the try line.
3. Zander Fagerson – 5
Not great from the boy, this was a big step up that he wasn’t quite ready to take. He needs to learn quickly because WP Nel isn’t going to ride in on a white horse in two weeks time. It’s not fair to expect Fagerson to learn his trade under such exposure but he is what we have.
4. Richie Gray – 7
Never took a step backwards, made tackles, hit rucks and was one the Scots’ most effective carriers. Apparently there is a touring team heading off to New Zealand in June, maybe Richie should be clearing his diary.
5. Jonny Gray – 6
After the disgrace of missing two tackles last week, Jonny was back to 100% form in Paris. Not as prominent around the pitch this week and a LOT of those tackles were after the freakish French front five had made it across the gain line.
6. John Barclay – 5
Was showing up well before going off with what appeared to be a failed HIA. His experience was missed among the carnage.
7. Hamish Watson – 7.5
Made most of his yards going forward with 3 Frenchmen hanging off him and was outstanding in defence. Any thoughts of the Edinburgh man being a little undersized for international rugby should have been put to bed today.
8. Josh Strauss – 8
I asked last week when we would see Strauss’s Glasgow form replicated for the national team. I got my answer this weekend. The Bearded One literally emptied himself, making carry after carry into the heart of the French defence. On one leg by the end, Scotland will seriously miss him if he can’t recover in time for Wales. Also, can Glasgow really do without him? Sign the man up!
9. Greig Laidlaw – 5
I am going to stop complaining about Laidlaw’s service. Yes, at times we looked sharper going forward with Price on and Russell looked better with faster ball. BUT…what we needed was to slow down and play the game in better areas during the second half. Which is exactly what Laidlaw would have done.
10. Finn Russell – 6
Better than last week although the weekly Finn brain fart took a very odd form this week. I am very glad it didn’t end up being the difference between the teams. At this stage of his development the Wegie fly half very much needs front foot ball of which there was almost none.
11. Tommy Seymour – 7
Seymour worked hard at restarts and created a try out of not very much for Tim Swinson.
12. Alex Dunbar – 7
Massive in defence with 11 tackles and a match-leading 3 turnovers but, perhaps as a consequence, wasn’t able to make much of a dent in attack with only 2 carries. Another casualty who might struggle for the Wales game in two weeks.
13. Huw Jones – 6.5
Great work again in the lead up to Hogg’s try from the man of many nationalities and he was busy in defence too (to be fair so were almost all the Scots in the second half). Coming along very nicely indeed.
14. Sean Maitland – 6
Another quietly effective game for the Saracens winger. Commentary team thought he might have lost a yard of pace. Not sure myself.
15. Stuart Hogg – 7.5
Looked upset after the game. Good! Personally, I have had enough of being “competitive” and brave defeat and it looked like the losing bonus point wasn’t much consolation to the Hawick man either. Hogg likes to win and does not expect to lose which is exactly the attitude this team needs. Oh, and the rapier like finishing doesn’t hurt either. France had obviously decided to kick almost no ball in Hogg’s direction, running it out from their 22 on several occasions. If only we had been able to stop them on the gain line.
Substitutes (sorry…. Finishers)
Price was busy and sped the game up when he came on……Hardie came and went……Swinson looked good and ran a great support line for his try…….. the front row replacements made almost no difference……..No clue why Cotter brought Weir on for the last 5 mins when we needed to go the length of the field for a try.
By Steve Smith