With the “pride” of its captain, Stuart Hogg, Scotland turned to the script of a sure beating in Paris, which was needed by France, which had to win by 21 points to take its first Six Nations since 2010. It did not come close to the feat. the team that forced the deferred outcome of the tournament, a week after the last day, when that match was postponed due to a dozen infections. Wales, the oldest team, far from any favoritism, won their second title in three years on television and the sixth since 2000. Scotland won in the French capital 22 years later – after doing it in London – and leaves the tournament of its confirmation after having lost both of their games, at home, by a total of four points.
France allowed itself the luxury of making a meme celebrating international waffle day, quite a shame because its infections came precisely in front of a waffle, skipping protocol. The locals, authors of the first major attack, needed a groundbreaking start. They locked the Scots in their last line, but they settled for the three points; the beating required a predatory mindset, and that decision conveyed a message of calm. So Scotland raged, solving the dilemma differently in the next set. No kicking sticks: let the forwards charge. There the Van der Merwe wing infiltrated to charge like one more strong man towards the rehearsal.
The sky did not facilitate the feat either. France would have appreciated a dry night, but the rain at the Stade France was more reminiscent of Edinburgh. The hand errors arrived – five in the first 20 minutes – in the Gauls and Scotland, increasingly comfortable, imposed their forward and won territory with excellent kicks. 75% of the game was played on the French pitch, quite a hindrance because each mistake costs points and because leaving the den used up his most scarce asset: time.
The locals gained air with two arguments: their physique and their discipline. In the absence of creativity, muscle keeps the boat afloat. Out of sheer inertia, the French planted camp in Scottish countryside and began forcing fouls, a waterfall that toppled Wales six days ago. Palliative measures were no longer valid, only trials. Like the one that Brice Dulin got after a break from Romain Ntamack. Everything could turn before the break after Hogg’s yellow that left Scotland in inferiority and an attack with the full time of the French, who lost the oval when putting it into play from the band. Errors that destroy feats. At rest, earthly result (13-10).
With one more, France continued with the monologue against a Scotland that needs the ball to defend. They resisted the first Gallic stake, but delivered their second mark in a transition. In a game that until then was played in short spaces, the locals let off steam with spaces. Vakatawa drew a large offload while being tackled and launched Damien Penaud, who posed after beating Ali Price with a house brand hat.
It was the exception in a France with bright peaks but without the perseverance to take over the parties. Once numerical equality was restored, Scotland returned to dominate the territory. Without much fanfare, but the trickle of the clock was lethal for France while its rival had a more realistic goal: to win the match. That is why they could afford the luxury of shooting sticks to shorten distances and strike calmly with their forwards. Thus came Dave Cherry’s rehearsal, which put Scotland ahead at game time. The tournament was over for France.
A more mundane battle remained. And Scotland’s options seemed to be lost when Finn Russell saw red for a forearm punch to Dulin’s neck, but Baptiste Serin returned the equal with a yellow. The locals regained the lead with a Swan Rebbadj brand and withstood the last charges from the XV del Cardo, who discarded the tie with a kick to sticks and sought victory.
France cared so little about the insipid victory that Dulin did not send the ball away when he recovered it on time and allowed one last visitor charge. They held the white jerseys on their lime line, but Van der Merwe took advantage of the superiority on the left for the triumph test. Time will tell if the giant-killer Scotland can handle the pressure to win when it must. Until then, reigns Wales.