EDINBURGH: France coach Fabien Galthie hailed his players for battling through adversity in a 20-16 victory over Scotland on Saturday after a week of stinging criticism back home. Les Bleus were on the end of a 38-17 thrashing by Ireland to open the Six Nations, which captain Gregory Alldritt described as a “car crash” performance.
The display was not much better at Murrayfield as both sides were booed by the 67,000 crowd as the game descended into a scrappy kicking contest in the second half. But France emerged victorious in controversial fashion after 20-year-old Louis Bielle-Biarrey produced a moment of magic to score a brilliant individual try 10 minutes from time.
Scotland thought they had snatched victory with the last act of the game when Sam Skinner looked to have forced the ball down on the French line. However, referee Nic Berry ruled no try on the field and a lengthy TMO review failed to find conclusive evidence to overturn the decision.
Victory saved Galthie from overseeing three consecutive French defeats for the first time since 2018. Les Bleus appear to be still suffering a hangover from a heartbreaking quarter-final defeat to South Africa at last year’s Rugby World Cup on home soil.
For the first time since taking charge in the wake of the 2019 World Cup, Galthie’s position is being questioned. But a hard-fought victory kept alive France’s hopes of winning back the Six Nations title should Ireland’s expected cruise towards a second consecutive Grand Slam falter.
“We recalled the values of the game,” said Galthie. “We enjoyed ourselves. This is a sport of combat, you have to be combative. One has to accept that there are times of adversity. “We dealt with that this week. We lose together, we suffer together, we win together.”
Alldritt was forced off injured early in the second half, but France’s younger generation helped turned the game around. Bielle-Biarrey produced the one moment of real quality in the second half by collecting his own kick through to score from 21-year-old Nolann Le Garrec’s pass.
“It is one of the best wins of my time with France,” said Alldritt. “We experienced a tough week. We circled the wagons and became an even tighter unit.
“We wanted to do this today for ourselves, and we did that.” The visitors were trailing for the vast majority of the match after Ben White scored Scotland’s only try early on. Three penalties from Finn Russell kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Scots, but Gael Fickou’s first half score to reduce the deficit for France proved to be crucial.
“It wasn’t an easy match, we were in difficulty but we never gave up,” said Fickou. “There were positives and negatives but we are very satisfied to have won this match. “The goal was to be in the game until the last 15 minutes and we were there. They pushed us back, but the state of mind was remarkable.” France now go into a two-week break with tensions around the camp eased before the visit of Italy to Lille on February 25. — AFP