EDINBURGH (Reuters) – A red card for a moment of recklessness ended France’s hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam on Sunday, as they lost 28-17 to a clinical Scotland in a meltdown with echoes of their ill-disciplined exit from the World Cup last October.
Scotland’s win, secured with a brace of tries for Sean Maitland and one for Stuart McInally, means no team can next Saturday be crowned definitive winners of the most chaotic Six Nations in recent memory, thanks to the postponement of Italy’s remaining fixtures due to the coronavirus.
England are in pole position, however, assuming they claim a bonus point and score heavily as expected whenever they do get to play their remaining fixture against bottom-ranked Italy.
France’s failure to secure even a bonus point leaves them tied on 13 points with England, and probably needing a big win over Ireland in their remaining fixture.
Ireland are also still in the title hunt with 9 points and a game in hand, but need to win their postponed fixture against Italy and beat France.
Sunday’s game turned on the expulsion in the 33rd minute of Mohamed Haouas for throwing a punch, in an echo of Sebastien Vahaamahina’s red for an elbow in the quarter-final defeat to Wales in Japan, but Les Bleus were in trouble before the card.
They lost flyhalf Romain Ntamack early to a head knock and conceded a string of early penalties as poor discipline returned to haunt the tournament favourites.
Scotland were ruthless in their decision making.
Maitland struck after a break from Adam Hastings, whose clinical goalkicking had earlier punished France for their relentless infringements at the scrum and breakdown.
Maitland bagged his second try after Stuart Hogg slipped Chris Harris into space down the left, with the centre bursting through to feed Ali Price in a swashbuckling attack that ended in the right-hand corner.
“We wanted to put in a performance to inspire the nation and hopefully we’ve done that today,” Hogg said.
France took until the 33rd minute to show any glimpse of the attacking finesse of their previous games, but it was worth the wait.
Replacement flyhalf Mathieu Jalibert lit the touchpaper with a jinking break down the left, before quicksilver scrumhalf Antoine Dupont found Damian Penaud with a pinpoint crossfield kick to the corner.
That was as good as it got for them, however, barring a late consolation try for Charles Ollivon when the game was lost.
In the weekend’s only other game England beat Wales 33-30 at Twickenham on Saturday, marred by a red card for try-scorer Manu Tuilagi.
(Reporting by Lawrence White; Editing by Toby Davis)
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