Scotland keep title dream alive
April 10, 1999
Gregor Townsend celebrates a try against France
Scotland kept up their hopes of a first title since 1990 by beating France in a bizarrely schizophrenic contest at the Stade de France. The first half hour resembled a particularly manic sevens tournament as the two teams ran in eight tries to five to the Scots and three from France
The last 50 minutes, by contrast were as dull, unproductive and error strewn as anything in this season's competition as France tightened up but proved hopelessly incapable of fighting their way back into contention. France, jeered of at the end, faced their first wooden spoon since 1982 unless Wales lose to England by a margin of at least eight points.
Even more than Scotland's three previous matches, this one showed how much they have gained from their New Zealand contingent.
Full back, Glenn Metcalfe replicated Shane Howarth's efforts here for Wales, surging repeatedly from deep to create havoc in the non-existent French defence. And both Leslie brothers were immense.
France, who have so often in the past demoralised opponents with irresistible multiple scoring bursts, were this time on the receiving end of possibly the greatest purple patch in Scotland's 128 years as an international rugby nation
Flanker Martin Leslie scored two of the five tries that destroyed France in the space of nineteen scarcely credible first half minutes, while long breaks from Metcalfe created both the tries, scored by Alan Tait.
The other try inevitably on the day perfectly suited to his mercurial attacking genius, came from Gregor Townsend, whose shimmy and break completed the feat of scoring in every match this season.
With 25 minutes, Scotland had broken their previous record of 31 points in a match against France and at 33-12 were safe from all but the most spectacular revival.
France were pathetic defensively, but they retained their cutting edge going forward, and had actually opened the scoring in the first minute.
Outside half, Thomas Castaignède, who a year ago destroyed Wales with one of the great attacking displays of attacking play, contrived possible the most spectacular 60 seconds appearance in rugby history.
He surged through the Scottish midfield from a quick tap penalty to create a score for Emile Ntamack.
But Casteignède fell awkwardly after being ankle tapped and had to be replaced by David Aucagne.
Scotland's five try deluge was punctuated by a French score from Jouillet and the home team cut the gap again in the 27 minutes when the impressive Dominici slice across at an angle to go under the posts.
But that was the end of the tries. Aucagne kicked an injury time penalty to cut the half time gap to 33-22 and Logan replied in kind after 55 minutes.
France pressed for much of the second half but lost any chance of a revival with a spell of wastefulness midway through the half when their forwards twice lost the ball close to the Scottish line and centre Giordani ignored the unmarked Dominici.
Scotland understandably were content to keep them at bay and the second half was as instantly forgettable as the first had been extraordinary.
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.