France edge out Scotland
Les Bleus keep Grand Slam bid on track in Edinburgh
Last Updated: 26/02/12 5:48pm
Scotland remain winless in this season's RBS Six Nations after going down 23-17 to France at Murrayfield.
Tries from Wesley Fofana and Maxime Medard, plus 10 points from Morgan Parra's boot and a Lionel Beauxis drop-goal, proved just enough for the visitors to emerge from Edinburgh with the win.
Stuart Hogg's early try helped Scotland into a 10-0 lead and they edged 17-13 ahead when Lee Jones added a second score in the 55th minute.
But they allowed Medard in four minutes after Jones' effort and, despite enjoying plenty of possession in the closing quarter, could not break France's resistance.
Scotland, who lost to England and Wales earlier this month, have beaten France just once in 13 attempts in Six Nations competition - in 2006 - and have now lost five successive Test matches for the first time since 2004, when they finished with the 'Wooden Spoon'.
Head coach Andy Robinson now has a record of two wins from 13 Six Nations fixtures in charge, but there were illustrations of why the former England boss retains belief in his charges.
Hogg and Jones scored their first Test tries, Greig Laidlaw kicked five points and Duncan Weir two, while the forward pack - as demanded by Robinson - went toe-to-toe with a formidable French unit.
There were mitigating factors in the defeat - Rory Lamont was stretchered off with a knee injury, Mike Blair a dead leg and Laidlaw a head injury.
Recently-retired duo Nathan Hines and Dan Parks presented the match ball, but it was the new generation who were facing the team second only to New Zealand at the World Cup.
Hogg, making his first Test start as one of four changes from the side which lost 27-13 to Wales, had been denied a try on debut in Cardiff but there was no doubt about his effort in the corner after eight minutes.
Laidlaw, who missed an early penalty, switched the play, and found Jones, who sent over Hogg, the 19-year-old Glasgow Warriors full-back. It was just reward for a purposeful opening and Laidlaw converted.
Blair sparked another attack but lacked support, before Ross Rennie halted a promising French foray forward by stripping the ball from Imanol Harinordoquy.
Scotland were given a reminder of the danger of France when Blair and Jones lost possession inside the visitors' 22 and Medard picked up, before sprinting into the hosts' half.
The France full-back found Vincent Clerc, who kicked, but was hauled down by Hogg and Medard was beaten to the ball by Sean Lamont.
France transgressed following a Ross Ford burst and Laidlaw kicked the hosts into a 10-0 lead after 26 minutes.
But moments later, the advantage was trimmed to three points. Francois Trinh-Duc broke through an attempted tackle from opposite number Laidlaw and the ball was recycled quickly, with Clerc's sleight of hand finding Fofana, who evaded three would-be tacklers to finish clinically. Parra converted.
Scotland suffered two further blows, with the loss of Rory Lamont, who landed awkwardly challenging for the restart, and Blair. Nick De Luca and Chris Cusiter came on.
Parra levelled the scores after Scotland pulled down a maul but missed the chance to give Les Bleus an interval lead by sending another penalty wide.
The scrum-half put France in front for the first time early in the second half before Laidlaw was replaced by Weir, who made his debut.
The pace of the game decreased with numerous substitutions taking place.
John Barclay was the catalyst for Scotland reclaiming the lead. The flanker made a sensational tackle and steal to feed De Luca, who fed fellow replacement Richie Vernon.
Vernon drew the defender and found Jones to touch down and Weir converted. The four-point advantage was short-lived as France wing Julien Malzieu trampled over Jones and fed Medard to score. Parra converted for a three-point lead with 20 minutes left.
France's defence remained stern and the visitors continued to sap the energy from their opponents as they moved down field.
Thierry Dusautoir led the way into the Scotland 22 and France teed-up Beauxis for a successful drop-goal which stretched the lead to six points.
Beauxis dragged a late penalty wide, but France celebrated a second win of the tournament.