Fly-half sensation Romain Ntamack fired France to their first victory of this year’s Six Nations with a 27-10 defeat of Scotland on Saturday to leave the injury-hit visitors without a victory in the French capital in 20 years.
Ntamack, who has started at number 10 in just three games for his Top 14 club Toulouse, was preferred by coach Jacques Brunel in the key playmaking role to Camille Lopez and proved his worth throughout the match, be it in defence or sparking his team in attack.
The French had lost 10 of their last 13 games going into the Scotland encounter, having fallen to Wales in their opening championship match before being hammered 44-8 by England, their heaviest loss to the ‘Rosbifs’ since 1911.
Captain Guilhem Guirado had promised a revolt and so it came, of sorts, France enjoying dominance over a poor Scottish side that struggled in the set-piece, desperately missed the creative spark of the injured backline trio of Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and Huw Jones, and were shown up defensively.
Australian referee Nic Berry, who played for Racing 92 among others in a career shortened by concussion, made an immediate enemy of the Stade de France public when he disallowed an early Damian Penaud try, Thomas Ramos and Antoine Dupont to the fore as France pressed in what was a sure sign of things to come.
Ntamack, who made a whopping 15 tackles in the first-half, was on hand to finish off the opening try.
The free-running Ramos sparked an electrifying 80-metre move, stepping three Scottish defenders and found Dupont on his inside.
Nick Grigg came in with a thunderous tackle, but the ball was quickly recycled to Ntamack, son of iconic former France back Emile, to slide over.
– Disjointed –
Ramos converted and then banged over a penalty, with Scotland looking toothless in attack and disjointed in defence. Scotland made it into the French 22m area for the first time after 20 minutes when Pete Horne jinked through.
Guirado produced arguably the tackle of the match, pummelling the Scotland fly-half to the floor, to quell the move and stir the sell-out 78,000-strong crowd into chants of ‘Allez Les Bleus’.
An ensuing infringement saw Laidlaw’s penalty come back off the post, the Clermont scrum-half finally getting Scotland on the board in the 25th minute with his second effort.
France were then a man down for 10 minutes after Huget saw yellow for blatantly playing the ball on the ground.
Scotland fluffed their lines at scrum time, but Ramos put the simple penalty wide. The visitors then suffered from more set-piece strife as they failed to take their own line-out in a promising attacking position.
France kicked off the second-half in perfect fashion, Mathieu Bastareaud’s chip and chase providing gael Fickou with a yard of space, No 8 Louis Picamoles offloading before Dupont fired out a pass to Huget, the winger stepping Scotland full-back Blair Kinghorn for a great try.
Ramos missed the extras, but France remained in total charge as both teams emptied the substitute benches.
Tellingly, as the game opened up, it was Ntamack who made two try-scoring tackles, taking down Kinghorn each time.
Alldritt powered over for two late French tries either side of one for Scotland replacement Ali Price as the game petered out to leave the Scots still looking for their first win in Paris since 1999.
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