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France sustains Grand Slam bid by routing Scotland 36-17

February 26, 2022 GMT
France's Gaël Fickou, left, scores a try as Scotland's Nick Haining fails to stop him during the Six Nations 2022 rugby match between Scotland and France at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
France's Gaël Fickou, left, scores a try as Scotland's Nick Haining fails to stop him during the Six Nations 2022 rugby match between Scotland and France at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
France's Gaël Fickou, left, scores a try as Scotland's Nick Haining fails to stop him during the Six Nations 2022 rugby match between Scotland and France at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
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France's Gaël Fickou, left, scores a try as Scotland's Nick Haining fails to stop him during the Six Nations 2022 rugby match between Scotland and France at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
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France's Gaël Fickou, left, scores a try as Scotland's Nick Haining fails to stop him during the Six Nations 2022 rugby match between Scotland and France at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — France preserved its Grand Slam quest and ended Scotland’s Six Nations title dream in a stylish 36-17 win at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The French, the only remaining unbeaten team, served the killer blows against a strong and confident Scotland side with their third try right on halftime and fourth try right after.

Scotland blew a great chance to lead at halftime but captain Stuart Hogg dropped a pass with the tryline open.

France rubbed it in when it pressed a tiring Scotland into injury time and center Gael Fickou backed himself to beat the flagging cover for a converted try and 19-10 lead at the break.

Then, less than two minutes into the new half, France forced a turnover and the ball was quickly given to wing Damian Penaud. He chipped ahead, the Scottish over-ran the bounce, and the trailing Jonathan Danty accepted the gift and easy run-in.

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At 26-10, France had a four-try bonus point and sucked the tension out of a packed and hostile Murrayfield, where it hadn’t won since 2014.

Scotland cost France winning the last two Six Nations, but the visitors’ counterattacking skills and inspired defense earned a measure of revenge by handing the Scots their heaviest defeat at Murrayfield in the championship in seven years.

“We were very good in our transition play, defense feeds attack,” France coach Fabien Galthie said.

The French finished with a six-try statement on the road and were halfway to a Grand Slam and their first title in 12 years with Wales next in Cardiff in two weeks followed by England in Paris on the last weekend.

“We can be hugely satisfied; we started the match very well,” France captain Antoine Dupont said. “We didn’t have very good memories of playing here. Now we’ve got one more away game to go.”

Scotland was out of the title race after a second straight defeat, the opening win over England a distant memory after defeats to Wales and the formidable French.

Dupont kick-started France into gear in the eighth minute when he took a clearance kick outside his 22. He stepped defenders Darcy Graham, Rory Darge and Ali Price to get over halfway. In support was prop Cyril Baille, and lock Paul Willemse finished off a brilliant 70-meter counterattack.

Finn Russell slotted a penalty kick for Scotland but moments later France wing Yoram Moefana was over. Penaud and Baille, again, kept the ball alive in the right-hand corner with Scotland stretched, and Moefana barged across.

France was 12-3 up and flying but Scotland took better care of the ball and strung phases, and France was stressed.

Hooker Stuart McInally was held up over the line. Price tapped a penalty and the scrumhalf delayed his pass expertly for Darge to blow through for a try in his first test start.

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Darge, the Scottish age-grade star who made his test debut against Wales off the bench, was wearing No. 7 after Hamish Watson was withdrawn for testing positive for the coronavirus on Friday. Darge filled in superbly in the week of his 22nd birthday with two turnovers and a ruck penalty in the first half alone.

Scotland, down 12-10, should have gone ahead from a Duhan van der Merwe breakout but Hogg dropped the final pass.

“We could have changed the momentum of the game and that is something I am devastated about,” Hogg said. “You have to be on the money for 80 minutes in test match rugby. It is absolutely horrible for us.”

The miss hurt even more in injury time when Fickou dotted down beside the right corner flag, and Melvyn Jaminet made the sideline conversion.

Their 19-10 lead quickly turned into 26-10 less than two minutes into the new half when Price was stripped by Francois Cros, Penaud attacked, and Danty scored.

Jaminet converted from wide out again, but it was his last success. He landed three from eight shots, hitting the post once and missing one from right in front. The 12 missed points would have better reflected France’s domination in the scoreline.

Penaud scored the last two tries, the first countering from a turnover, and the second from a Romain Ntamack crosskick to give France six tries against Scotland for the first time in 15 years.

Scotland got a last-minute try from Van der Merwe. They go to Italy next.

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