Scotland suffered their fourth straight Six Nations defeat but the gloom that followed the loss in Italy two weeks ago was replaced by a sense of self-belief after a performance that challenged an all-conquering French side and came close to producing the upset of the season.

In contrast to their last game at Netherdale, Scotland showed accuracy in defence, strength in their scrummaging and, in the final quarter, flair in attack helped by the extra urgency that the replacement half backs Ben Vellacott and Gavin Lowe brought to their game. Scotland's one weakness was goalkicking and that was argu­ably the difference between the teams.

Sean Lineen, Scotland's head coach, said: "Against a very good French side we showed we're moving in the right direction. The players should be really proud of themselves. There are a lot of youngsters in this side, so from a coaching point of view this was a satisfying performance.

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"I thought we drove well in the forward play and or lineout was good. Unfortuantely we leaked seven points in front of goal and that's something we must address."

France had the first opportunity of the night but, at the end of a powerful piece of multi-phase play, the stand-off, Brandon Fajardo, was wide with a dropped goal attempt.

When the Scots were presented with a chance after a lineout offence by France, Ben Chalmers showed accuracy with his first kick at goal for a 3-0 lead. France threatened to hit back immediately but good scrummaging technique by the Scotland pack engineered a successful wheel, allowing them to win possession at the ensuing feed to relieve pressure.

Fajardo missed a long-range penalty attempt but the Auch stand-off showed his running talents by supporting a break by the flanker Jean-Blaise Lespinasse before outpacing the Scotland defence for a try, which he converted. A second kick at goal by Chalmers went wide but, at the other end Fajardo, at the conclusion of slick short-range passing by the French backs, made no mistake with his attempt to give France a 10-3 interval advantage.

Five minutes into the second half Scotland gave away a scrum penalty in front of the posts, presenting the Anthony Meric,who had taken over from the substituted Fajardo, an easy kick at goal to increase France's lead to 13-3. With their confidence growing, they launched a series of attacks close to the Scotland line and while Lineen's side defended tenaciously, the burly prop Tommy Reynaud forced his way over for an unconverted try. Scotland's forwards had shown up well and it was just reward when they claimed the next score, from a driven lineout and then a number of forceful drives at the French line that ended with an unconverted try for the lock and man of the match Andy Cramond.

The Scots then produced a second score, again from a penalty lineout, but this time it was the backs who took the honours. Replacement stand-off Gavin Lowe did the damage with an accurately-placed cross kick. Jamie Farndale gathered the ricochet and flicked a pass to Damien Hoyland for the full-back to cross the line as the Scots finished strongly