France down Scotland
Edinburgh - World Cup finalists France overcame a 10-point deficit to beat Scotland 23-17 at Murrayfield here on Sunday and keep their hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam alive.
Victory made it two wins out of two for the French, whose previous encounter against Ireland was postponed because of a frozen pitch in Paris.
But the cold truth on Sunday for an improved Scotland was that they'd suffered a fifth straight defeat - and third in as many matches this Six Nations.
Tries from teenager Stuart Hogg and wing Lee Jones gave Scotland hope but these were cancelled out by scores from France centre Wesley Fofana and fullback Maxime Medard, while scrumhalf Morgan Parra kicked 10 points.
Scotland missed an early chance when outside-half Greig Laidlaw's long-range penalty fell well short of the posts.
They then spent the next few minutes encamped in France's 22 but it looked like being an all-too familar story when, after several phases against resolute French defence, they knocked on.
But France knocked on themselves from the ensuing scrum when trying to run from deep and handed possession back to Scotland.
Laidlaw shifted the ball to the blindside and quick hands from Jones sent the diving fullback Hogg in at the right corner in the eighth minute as the 19-year-old, making his first Test start, became Scotland's youngest try-scorer in 79 years.
Laidlaw converted and Scotland were 7-0 up.
Scrumhalf Mike Blair then caused more panic in the visitors' defence with a quickly-taken tap penalty before France captain Thierry Dusautoir, demonstrating the kind of tackling that helped his side reach the World Cup final, dumped prop Geoff Cross with a shuddering hit.
Medard and wing Vincent Clerc threatened a break-away try before Scotland snuffed out the danger.
Laidlaw then kicked a penalty from a ruck infringement after No 8 David Denton and captain Ross Ford had surged downfield and Scotland, against virtually all pre-match predictions, were 10-0 in front in the 26th minute.
France though eventually showed their class two minutes later when fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc went straight through an attempted challenge by opposite number Laidlaw.
Quick hands from Parra and Clerc then sent in Fofana, running a sharp angle, for what was the centre's second try in as many Tests.
Parra converted and Scotland's lead was down to 10-7.
One area where France were maintaining their expected advantage was the scrum and when Scotland collapsed the set-piece shortly before half-time, Parra kicked a 35 metre penalty but missed another before the break as a breathless first half ended all square at 10-10.
After the frenetic opening 40 minutes, France resumed in more composed fashion with their pack going through a series of drives before Scotland were penalised for a ruck infringement.
Parra kicked the 47th minute penalty and France, who had been 10 points behind, were now three in front at 13-10.
But for all France's scrum advantage, it was Scotland who scored the next try.
Flanker John Barclay forced a turnover at a ruck and was then back on his feet to feed Nick de Luca.
The ball was then worked to Jones as the wing went in for his first try for his country. Duncan Weir, on for the injured Laidlaw, kicked the conversion and Scotland were 17-13 ahead.
Scotland though were behind again within minutes.
France wing Julien Malzieu ran through the attempted challenge of Jones and released Medard for a try under the posts.
Parra added the simple conversion and France were 20-17 up heading into the final quarter.
Scotland then gifted France turnover ball and the visitors' drove deep into the 22, creating the platform for Lionel Beauxis to land a drop-goal that gave the French a six-point lead with 11 minutes remaining.
And that proved too much to overcome for Scotland, who at full-time were left facing yet another battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
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