France 23-27 Scotland: Van der Merwe stuns Les Bleus as Wales claim title

By Peter Thompson 27 March 2021 52
France 23-27 Scotland: Van der Merwe stuns Les Bleus as Wales claim title

Wales were crowned Six Nations champions as Scotland denied France with a dramatic long-awaited 27-23 victory in Paris on Friday despite Finn Russell's red card.

Les Bleus had to score four tries or more and win by a margin of at least 21 points to end their 11-year wait for the title, but they were denied in a pulsating final match of the tournament on a rainy evening.

France led 13-10 at half-time courtesy of a Brice Dulin score after Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe's somewhat contentious opening try at the Stade de France.

Damian Penaud scored a classy second France try early in the second half, but David Cherry touched down on the hour mark to put Scotland back in front and leave Les Bleus' title hopes hanging by a thread.

Swan Rebbadj's try gave Fabien Galthie's side the lead once again before Russell, who booted 10 points, was shown a red card for making contact with Dulin's neck with his arm.

France then had Baptiste Serin sent to the sin bin and there was a stunning twist with the clock in the red, as Van der Merwe claimed a decisive double to give Scotland a first win in Paris since 1999.

Romain Ntamack set France on their way with a penalty but Scotland hit the front with a Van der Merwe pick-and-go try 14 minutes in, although it appeared the wing needed a double movement to cross the line.

Russell converted and the fit-again fly-half added another three points from the tee as Gregor Townsend's fired-up side continued to apply the pressure in testing conditions.

Les Bleus turned the tide and Ntamack reduced the deficit to four points before Dulin dotted down five minutes before the break, with Scotland fortunate not to have a man sent to the sin bin after conceding a string of penalties in quick succession.

Ntamack converted brilliantly and France wasted a golden opportunity to increase their 13-10 lead when they made a mess of a lineout right next to the Scotland line after Stuart Hogg was shown a yellow card on the stroke of half-time.

France conjured up a sublime second try with Hogg off the field, Penaud taking a brilliant Virimi Vakatawa offload and chasing his own kick to finish clinically six minutes after the break.

Ntamack was unable to add the extras and Russell reduced the deficit, then put Scotland 20-18 up by converting midway through the second half after Cherry scooped up to plough over with France forced back following a lineout.

France responded again as Rebbadj broke through to slide over and although Russell was given his marching orders for catching Dulin with his arm, the hosts were a man down soon after when Serin was sent to the sin bin.

With France's title hopes over, clinical wing Van der Werwe added insult to injury by stepping inside to snatch a stunning win for superb Scotland and Adam Hastings converted with Les Bleus shellshocked.

Lethal Van der Merwe makes history

Scotland had lost 12 consecutive away Tests against France since their last win in Paris 22 years ago, but Van der Merwe's last-gasp finish finally gave them a first Six Nations triumph on French soil in a tournament they started by securing an elusive victory over England at Twickenham.

The wing has been a revelation for Townsend's men and his 84th-minute finish made him the leading try-scorer in the tournament with five for a Scotland side that finished fourth - level on 15 points with Ireland and one behind France.

Van der Merwe made seven carries for 40 metres in a thrilling contest that should have been played last month, but was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the France camp.

Versatile Fickou shines on dismal night for France

Gael Fickou was hugely impressive once again on a painful night for France in Paris, where Les Bleus had to settle for second place.

He gained 101 metres after being switched once again from centre to the wing and showed the other side of his game by making 11 tackles.

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Peter Thompson