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France came away from Glasgow with a deserved victory but by a flattering scoreline in their first ever meeting with Scotland at amateur international level. Scotland started superbly, locking France into their own half for the first 15 minutes but only had Dougie Thomson?s eighth minute try to show for their domination.
When France did finally launch an attack, Scotland full-back Andy Brown was sin-binned by referee Paul Stockdale for stripping the ball in the tackle and while he was off the field France made the home side pay. From the resulting penalty, full-back Thierry Floris went in on the left and seven minutes later Cyril Hoffman raced clear to score under posts. He converted his own try as France took complete control of the game, Scotland relieved to get into the dressing rooms trailing just 10-4.
But that lead was soon 18 points: within four minutes the visitors touched down twice. The excellent powerhouse winger Mohamed Khenissi was impressively tackled by the diminutive Ian Gilmour but Ismael Ximinez spun out of two tackles to score an easy try. Moments later, poor tackling by Scotland and a Thomson fumble enabled Anthony Garcia to stumble over the try-line, Thierry Pere converting both tries.
But Scotland did not lie down, responding with two tries in three minutes themselves. Nathan Graham?s side built up significant pressure and were rewarded with Kevin Lang pouncing on the right, debutant Jamie Benn converting with style and, despite losing scrum-half Ritchy Hawkyard to a thigh injury, the Scots were on the front foot. Gilmour?s four-storey bomb was dropped and John Macdonald?s pressure enabled Dave Birchall to snap up the ball and score, Benn adding the extras for 16-22.
Pere missed a penalty for a high tackle and when Walter Sabatier added a drop goal with 17 minutes left it demonstrated how close the game was. But Scotland?s comeback was thwarted when the French held out for two successive sets in their own 20, Scotland?s failing to find a way through. Seconds later the visitors broke downfield and Gregory Schmitt went over on the right to give France an 11 point lead with nine minutes left on Stockdale?s watch.
Pere missed the conversion, giving Scotland slim hope but a final chance hit the ground and the home crowd looked on in silent despair as winger Ximenez flew down the left touchline to complete a strong France Federale performance on their return to the international stage.
By Gavin Willacy at Lochinch, Glasgow