Scotland U20 20 - 29 France U20: Sean Lineen’s side fall just short in a thriller

Scotland posted another 
heroic performance in last night’s Six Nations under-20 match against France at Netherdale but, ultimately, France had just enough to edge out the Scots in a thrilling match of open and ambitious rugby by both sides.

Scotland’s Robbie McCallum is tackled by Thibault Debaes of France during the Netherdale clash. Picture: Bruce White/SNS

The difference, perhaps, was the strength of the France bench and particularly their front-row replacements, whose power affected the scrummaging battle producing a second-half try that in the end was the difference.

But Scotland deserve huge credit for a performance which was brave in defence, skilful in attack and, crucially, sustained and which produced three very good tries that will give the Scots confidence going into their final Six Nations match against Wales next weekend. It also earned the Scots a losing bonus point .

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Scotland were never in awe of their opponents and, from the whistle, took the game to France with positive handling rugby, albeit met with a French defence which was accurate and determined.

The Scots’ pack deserve huge credit for standing up to a physical French eight. Outstanding in taking on France were second row Cameron Henderson, flanker Gregor Brown and in the front row props Mak Wilson and 
Thomas Lambert.

Behind the scrum Robbie McCallum and Matthew Currie were strong at centre, Ollie Smith was full of running from full-back and on the wings Rufus McLean and Jacob Henry looked sharp and alert.

At the end of an all-action first half the scores were level at 17-17, each side having scored two converted tries and a penalty. Scotland looked the sharper of the two sides in the first quarter but their reward was restricted to a penalty 
goal by stand-off Nathan Chamberlain.

This seemed to be the spur that France required and when they worked a move down the left touchline, skipper Jordan Joseph powered over for a try converted by Joris Moura. But no sooner had France gone ahead than the Scots levelled the scores with a try by winger Rufus McLean following a decisive break by full-back Ollie Smith.

Chamberlain converted from the touchline but France soon replied, working a move from a lineout that ended with a try by Erwan Dridi converted by Moura. Good though this score was, Scotland trumped it with a top-drawer try from a maul and a slick inside pass by Ewan Ashman that sent winger Jacob Henry hurtling in for a try under the posts, Chamberlain’s conversion 
levelling the scores.

France made the first strike in the second half when wing Nathanael Hullei raced on to a cross kick by Thibault Debaes to score an unconverted try after Joseph had taken a quick tap penalty.

The French extended their lead with a try by lock Michael Guillard after the Scots had been driven backwards on their own scrum, the conversion by Debaes giving France a 29-17 lead.

A long penalty touch finder by replacement stand-off Cameron Scott put Scotland back on the front foot and, when France gave away another penalty, the Scots drove the resultant lineout for Ewan Ashman to claim his customary try, Scott just missing with his conversion attempt.

Scotland threw what they could into the final few minutes of the match creating an exciting finale for the sizeable crowd at the Gala ground but it was not enough to prevent France from maintaining their unbeaten record against the Scots at this age level.

Afterwards, Scotland coach Sean Lineen said: “They were powerful and they squeezed us in the third quarter. They are playing a higher level of 
rugby than us. We made a lot of line breaks in the first half and we needed to go into 
half-time ahead.”

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