France v Scotland: It was a triumph of courage, effort and togetherness, says Gregor Townsend

Gregor Townsend hailed his side’s courage and team spirit after Scotland ended their long wait for a win in Paris with a stunning 27-23 win over France.
Scotland players celebrate the win over France. Picture: AFP via Getty ImagesScotland players celebrate the win over France. Picture: AFP via Getty Images
Scotland players celebrate the win over France. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

Duhan van der Merwe’s try in injury time swung the match in the visitors’ favour in a dramatic finale to this season’s Guinness Six Nations.

Wales are the champions but Scotland finished on a high with their first away win over France in 22 years.

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They overcame a number of setbacks, both before and during the match. The build-up had been dominated by wrangling over which English-based players would be available. Eventually only five were, which meant some tough decisions for Scotland coach Townsend, with Sean Maitland being omitted. Then Matt Fagerson was ruled out on the eve of the match with an ankle injury.

The game at the Stade de France ebbed and flowed but things looked bleak for Scotland when stand-off Finn Russell was sent off with ten minutes remaining for connecting with the neck of France full-back Brice Dulin. Stuart Hogg, the Scottish captain, was also sin-binned at the end of the first half for being off his feet at the breakdown

“I’m so proud of the team,” said Townsend. “They’ve come here in a bit of adversity with not our full squad. We had an injury to one of our starters on Wednesday, a yellow card, a red card, we had to come back against a very, very good side. And they showed courage, effort, togetherness and skill to win. So a great end to a really promising season for us.

“It took a lot of knocking on the door and that’s credit to France’s defence. They had to defend for as long as we did at the end of the first half, but the players found a way and I’m so happy for them. They put a lot of effort into this championship, and even though we finish fourth it feels like one of our best ever seasons with the victories we’ve had this year and the performance tonight especially.”

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That Scotland ended the championship in fourth place fails to do justice to a campaign which saw them win away against England and France and post narrow home defeats against Wales and Ireland. There was also a record-breaking 52-10 victory over Italy.

“That’s now been the last two years where we’ve been competitive in every game - I think we’ve won six of our last ten Six Nations games and the other four would be within a score,” added Townsend. “So the players will take confidence from that.

“We’ve grown a lot this year, we’ve grown a lot in this campaign, and we just have to grow further over the next few years.

“We won at Twickenham and we won in Paris. Taking opportunities. Knowing when things are against you that you have to stay in control like we did today at times.

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“But it’s sport. You’re not going to win all the games, and as long as you learn and grow as a team after the losses, then you’ll be fine in the long run.”

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