France fire six tries past Scotland to keep Six Nations Grand Slam hopes alive

France were far from perfect but showcased many of their biggest strengths en route to a 36-17 win over Scotland on Saturday, preserving their hopes for a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Gregor Townsend 's side contributed some magnificent individual performances—not least from Rory Darge making his first senior start for Scotland—but struggled to beat down Les Bleus at Murrayfield.

Paul Willemse, Yoram Moefana and Gael Fickou each crossed over for the guests in the opening period, while Jonathan Danty and Damian Penaud (two) crossed over to complete a six-try haul in the second half.

Darge's disguised run led to a try of his own on his full debut, crashing over just to the right of the posts to make his first senior outing at Murrayfield an even more memorable one.

It was subtle consolation following what was ultimately a dominant result, however, with France revelling in their biggest victory over Scotland in Edinburgh since 2008.

Stand-in France skipper Antoine Dupont put every bit of his 5'9" frame to fine use when he launched a break from inside his own half in the eighth minute that would end with Willemse crashing over for the opener.

Full-back Melvyn Jaminet was left red-faced when he missed a routine penalty to put France ahead 60 seconds earlier, but the visitors made up for the error (and then some) thanks to Dupont's dynamism.

If there were any doubts this French vintage was back to its free-flowing best, Moefana put them to bed when he crashed over for a second try in five minutes following some supreme hands from Penaud.

The Clermont winger darted toward the right corner and was being oushed out when he flung a hopeful ball inside to prop Cyril Baille, who showed a deft pair of mitts to put Moefana over.

Just when the floodgates appeared to be widening for the visitors, France appeared fortunate to escape two sin bins in quick succession.

The first saw Jaminet pulled up for crashing into an airborne Sam Skinner in reckless fashion, while Baille's high tackle on Ali Price as he crossed the line led to no more than a penalty.

It mattered not, however, as Darge soon took matters into his own hands and crashed over for a try on his full debut from the next phase.

Few might have believed Scotland should have gone in as leaders at the break given their sluggish start, with Chris Harris lacking the execution to send skipper Stuart Hogg over following a Duhan van der Merwe break.

Les Bleus made their hosts pay, too, after Fickou flew over at the opposite end deep into first-half stoppage time.

Deja vu struck when Scotland again went from threatening the French line to conceding another try themselves in a matter of seconds, Danty the difference-maker in the 43rd minute.

A lucky bounce went in favour of the La Rochelle centre to take the Scottish defence by surprise, though France were well worthy of their bonus-point score.

While the opening 40 minutes were frantic and somewhat unpredictable, the table leaders showed off their talents in game management during a less eventful second salvo.

Defence coach Shaun Edwards will have been particularly pleased with France's improvements in that department following the restart, with Scotland struggling to escape their own half for large periods.

Danty turned provider for Penaud after Scotland were robbed of the ball in their own half, a predictable punishment for Scotland given their desperate attempts to play out keeping ball in hand.

Therein lay the bulk of their woes for the remainder of the game, with France picking off penalties almost at will around the breakdown and reminding their peers why they're deserved Grand Slam contenders.

A cross-field kick put Penaud in to score a second in acres of space, though the winger's brace weren't enough to pip Dupont to the Player of the Match award.

Van der Merwe had the last laugh and opened his account for 2022 following a late break down the left from substitute Blair Kinghorn, though he'll struggle to match last year's tally of five Six Nations tries.

Hogg said he and his team-mates were "bitterly disappointed" with the result, highlighting his own bundled try chance in the first half as a tide-turning moment.

The French revolution rumbles on undeterred as Les Bleus remain on course for a first Six Nations title since 2010, with their Grand Slam hopes also still intact with two games to go.

Teams will have another week's respite before Galthie's men pick up their campaign away to Wales on Friday, March 11 before concluding their tournament at home to England eight days later.

Following what's likely to be their most difficult test of the tournament, Scotland can look forward to a more straightforward examination away to Italy in a fortnight.

Townsend's men have played both of their home games in this year's Six Nations and will spend the rest of their campaign on the road, wrapping up with another tough test against Ireland in Dublin on March 19.

SCOTLAND- Tries: Darge, Van der Merwe. Cons: Russell 2. Pens: Russell.

FRANCE- Tries: Willemse, Moefana, Fickou, Danty, Penaud 2 . Cons: Jaminet 3 .

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