Rugby Union: Disappointing France limp past spirited Scotland

France's Bernard Le Roux (centre) tries to catch the ball during their Six Nations rugby union match against Scotland in Saint-Denis, near Paris, Feb 7, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
France's Bernard Le Roux (centre) tries to catch the ball during their Six Nations rugby union match against Scotland in Saint-Denis, near Paris, Feb 7, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - France limped to an unspectacular 15-8 victory over a spirited Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday.

The Scots continued their recent improvement under New Zealander coach Vern Cotter with a solid defensive display that frustrated the error-prone French.

The visitors to the Stade de France in Paris even scored the only try of the match right on the stroke of half-time through Dougie Fife's first international score in only his fourth match.

Greig Laidlaw added a penalty while fly-half Camille Lopez scored all France's points with the boot.

But it was a disjointed and lacklustre performance from Philippe Saint-Andre's side despite the occasional searing break.

Too many handling errors scuppered all their best work.

The only fillip being that France maintained their 100 per cent record when wearing red - something they did for only the third time in their history.

Laidlaw had said earlier in the week that he believed Scotland could win the Six Nations and in the first half they played like a team who believed it Scotland stole France's first lineout but Blair Cowan was penalised for holding on and Lopez kicked a third minute penalty.

Laidlaw replied for the visitors after France were penalised at the scrum.

That seemed to spark the hosts into action and France moved the ball around well with runners breaking through the midfield before Scotland were caught offside and Lopez booted another penalty.

A beautiful dummy from Stuart Hogg set up Six Nations debutant fly-half Finn Russell for a drop goal attempt from the 22, but he put it wide.

Lopez extended France's lead after the Scots were caught offside, but the visitors finished the half in the ascendancy as Mark Bennett's show and go down the left helped Hogg carry the ball almost to the French line.

Scotland then swung the ball right for prop Euan Murray to put Fife in to dive over in the corner.

Laidlaw was unlucky to see his conversion hit the post and come away as France went in 9-8 ahead at the break.

Lopez maintained his perfect kicking record 10 minutes into the second half with a fourth penalty to extend the hosts' lead.

France started to pile the pressure on and they won a penalty after Scotland collapsed a scrum on their own five-metre line but Lopez hit the post with his kick.

The pressure told as Johnnie Beattie was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul as France drove towards the line.

The French kicked the resulting penalty to the corner but once again the Scottish defence held firm.

Scotland survived the sin-bin period without conceding any points, thanks largely to Yoann Huget's knock-on two yards from the line after he'd exploited Tim Visser's reckless attempt at an interception.

France did have the last laugh, though, with a late Lopez penalty, although that could not paper over the cracks in a disappointing display.