Greig Laidlaw landed 22-points in a flawless kicking display as Scotland fought back to record a 32-26 win over France at Murrayfield – their first win of the 2018 Six Nations. Here are our three takeaways from the match.
Welcome back Greig
Greig Laidlaw might have started slowly and gave away a try to Teddy Thomas with a freakish bounce but the more and more he got his hands on the ball the more the veteran scrumhalf began to dominate.
You could feel the younger players around him drawing strength from the authoritative presence of the 32-year-old and he had a big part in helping his side stay calm after they went behind 10-0 to a shock early try and penalty.
Laidlaw plays his rugby at Clermont Auvergne and clearly his experience of playing with and against French teams made a big difference and his flawless goal-kicking in the end was the difference between the two teams, as he landed eight shots from eight attempts for 22 points.
Ali Price may be the future but Laidlaw needs to be the present. He even showed his versatility slotting in to the fly-half role when a mis-firing Finn Russell was removed after 65 minutes.
Thomas is becoming a deadly finisher
Two games, three tries – the France right winger is becoming one of the most dangerous finishers in Europe. His first try was very similar to his superb score last week against Ireland.
He received a nothing ball on the sideline around halfway, got on the outside of two players then cut inside, breaking through the tackle of Stuart Hogg and outsprinting the cover defence to score.
Coming after just three minutes the try put a knife through the heart of the Scottish team and a packed Murrayfield.
His second on 27 minutes was more speculative but again taken superbly.
He found some space out on the right, chipped ahead and the ball bounced wickedly allowing Thomas to pounce.
His stats for the match make impressive reading: seven runs, 54 metres made, two clean breaks, three defenders beaten and two offloads.
The problem for France is Thomas seems their only real attacking weapon. You wonder what Thomas could do if he was on the end of a dynamic back line or behind a forward pack actually going forward.
He’s the top tryscorer for the tournament to date and there’s a good chance he’ll bag several more before the 2018 Six Nations is done.
Expect high scores whenever these two teams play in the remaining three rounds.
Scotland have already shown in their two matches that they know their way to the tryline but keeping the other team out is proving a different story.
While for France, with a finisher as potent and in form as Thomas, they too can be expected to cross the chalk regularly but they will also be regularly conceding.
Both sides attacking stats were impressive.
Scotland made 410 metres with the ball in hand while France managed 315, Scotland also made 172 passes to France’s 122.
The Scots made seven clean breaks, beat 19 defenders and got away eight offloads. France made five clean breaks but even outshone the hosts with 22 defenders beaten and 13 offloads.
It all makes for impressive reading until you get to the tackle breakdown – Scotland made 83 tackles and missed a whopping 22 for a success ratio of just 79%, while France fared better making 108/127 for a ratio of 85%.
Compare this to England and Wales on Saturday: England made 165 of 188 tackles for 88% while Wales were even more impressive – 182/200 for 91%. So France and Scotland may need to score a lot more tries if they are to win again this year.
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