Tuesday 21 November 2017

On-fire Hogg fails to bring Robinson's losing streak to an end

Scotland 17 France 23

Simon Turnbull

For Andy Robinson, stuck behind the glass of the coaches' box at the back of the west stand at the home of Scottish rugby, it was yet another day in the Bill Murray role.

There were not so many slams of the fists against the glass window as his charges rose to the occasion of a 67,144 sell-out crowd, asking some serious questions of the losing World Cup finalists with a performance brimming with attacking vim and featuring two tries, one of them making Stuart Hogg the youngest scorer for Scotland since 1933. Ultimately, however, it was Groundhog Day for Scotland and their coach.

That made it three losses out of three in the 2012 Six Nations for Robinson, and five in a row in all competitions -- the longest losing streak by a Scotland coach since Matt Williams in 2004.

Still, there was much to admire in this latest reverse -- not least the sparkling attacking play of the 19-year-old, yellow-booted Hogg, the driving of the captain-cum-hooker Ross Ford and the pilfering of the outstanding Ross Rennie. There was also a try for left-wing Lee Jones, but when it came to the crunch Scotland could not pinch the win against France, who matched them try for try.

"I can't ask any more of the players. I thought they were inspirational," Robinson said.

When the reality of the losing streak was put to him, the coach replied: "I can't hide away from that. We are here to win rugby matches but my belief in this squad of players has been strengthened by what we have seen today. We took on a team who got to the World Cup final and we outplayed them."

Robinson's men set out their stall from the off and got their reward in the eighth minute. Jones popped into the line on the right and shipped the ball out for Hogg to dive over in the corner. It was a moment to treasure for the 19-year-old, who discovered last week that he happened to be a distant relative of George Best.

Laidlaw added the extras and landed a 25th-minute penalty to stretch the lead to 10-0. Four minutes after that, however, France struck back, Wesley Fofana breaking through a Hogg tackle to score. Morgan Parra converted and followed up with a 38th-minute penalty to leave it all square at 10-10 at the interval.

By then, the Scots had been forced to make changes, Mike Blair and Rory Lamont having departed -- the latter after a collision that left him with a suspected broken leg.

After trailing 13-10, Scotland were back in front in the 57th minute after Jones' try. The lead proved short-lived. Two minutes later, Parra broke from deep, passing the ball out via Julien Malzieu to Maxime Medard, who cut in to score. Parra added the conversion and a Lionel Beauxis drop-goal sealed the French victory. (© Independent News Service)

Scotland -- S Hogg; R Lamont (N De Luca 30), S Lamont, G Morrison, L Jones; G Laidlaw (D Weir 49), M Blair (C Cusiter 30); A Jacobsen, R Ford (S Lawson 69), G Cross (E Kalman 62); R Gray, J Hamilton (A Kellock 69); J Barclay, R Rennie, D Denton (R Vernon 53).

France -- M Medard (L Beauxis 62); V Clerc, A Rougerie, W Fofana, J Malzieu; F Trin-Duc, M Parra (J Dupuy 75); J-B Poux (V Debaty 51), D Szarzewski (W Servat 51), N Mas; P Pape, Y Maestri (L Nallet 66); T Dusautoir, I Harinordoquy, L Picamoles.

Ref -- W Barnes (England)

Irish Independent

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