Scotland A 19, France A 29

DAVE McIvor has been distinctive throughout his senior rugby career,

with the greying locks of one far older than his 28 years, but rarely,

if ever, has Edinburgh Academicals' international flanker stood out as

he did in trying to dam the French tide at Rubislaw on Saturday. He

could take more credit than any other Scot from the A international

defeat by five tries to one.

His star is rising again after a year in decline. Scotland's

blind-side flanker in the 1992 championship was eclipsed by others for

the six subsequent internationals.

At times in the Aberdeen match it seemed as if McIvor was two men.

Once, early on, he pulled off two tackles in quick succession in

attempting to stem a French assault, and that set the tone of a McIvor

game that was uninhibited even though he had to alternate between two

scrummage positions, No.8 on Scotland's ball and blind side when France

had the put-in.

McIvor's rugby was a contradiction of too many round him. He set an

example that others could not follow in a frustratingly porous midfield

defence. The French poured through at will even from off their own

goal-line, as Jean-Luc Sadourny did in breaking out to initiate the

Laurent Arbot try that hoisted the margin to 24-0 in the first minute of

the second half. It was ''a psychological blow'' to lose a score at that

stage, as David Johnston, the Scots' coach, later remarked.

Defeat, and the manner of it, were sharp reminders that Scottish

rugby's reservoir of talent is much shallower than many others. Nor can

it afford to leak as it did on Saturday.

Johnston admitted natural disappointment, especially when he could

claim that his team had ''the equipment to win the game,'' as they

showed in a pleasing first quarter before the French exploited the

advantage of a stiff, chilling wind. The Scots won good possession in

that time and used it well.

Shade Munro and Andy Macdonald edged the early lineouts. The portents

looked promising, especially with David Millard prepared to run the ball

at the French.

Olivier Merle and Yann Lemeur, however, turned the touchline flow.

Lineout takes by each of the French locks produced tries for Jean-Claude

Larran and Fabien Bertranck in 19 and 25 minutes, Benoit Bellot

converting the first.

Nor did it help that Martin Scott's throwing-in was not precise

enough, and the Scots lost their previous pattern. Thereafter, despite

McIvor's example, they were constantly on the back foot.

Afterwards, Arthur Hastie, the Scots' team manager, pointed to one

value in the match. It had been a finding-out exercise with eyes on

selection for Scotland's Pacific tour in May and June.

Though he did not delve into specifics, Steve Ferguson and John Kerr

did enough to justify their promotion from the national league's minor


Ferguson, the Peebles tight head, did what was asked of him in the

scrummaging basics, with an examplorary straight back and ideal body

position, and, like McIvor, Kerr, the Haddington wing, though limited in

his scope, could escape the general criticism of the defence. His

crossfield covering saved Scotland more than once.

In the debit column of the selectors' book, however, the experiment of

playing Macdonald as blind-side flanker did not work.

His lack of defensive appreciation was blatantly shown up when Falbien

Galthie escaped on the narrow side of a halfway scrummage for

Bertranck's second try. As in the under-21 international in Dijon last

month, the Montferrand wing had a double whack at the Scots.

In any case, Macdonald should not have been on that side of the scrum.

His duty ought to have been at No.8 for a French put-in.

Laurent Labit, half-time replacement for Bellot, converted Arbot's try

immediately after the interval, and for more than half an hour the only

Scottish responses were goals from four of the six penalties that Ally

Donaldson attempted.

Between the second and third, however, Galthie pounced on a squirting

heel from a Scottish goal-line scrummage for the fifth try.

So threadbare was the Scottish game that France could afford to

squander penalties. The count over the game was 32-8, horrendously 20-4

in the second half. Their penchant was for killing the ball on the

ground despite reprimands from Brian Campsall, the Englishman who

refereed with competence and an admirable feeling for the game.

Only in the last minute did Scotland hammer the French line by running

four successive penalties for Millard to send Kenny Logan in. Donaldson

added the conversion, and the scoreline looked better than the Scottish

rugby mainly had been.

Scotland A -- K M Logan (Stirling County); K R Milligan (Stewart's

Melville FP), I C Jardine (Stirling County), D S Wyllie (Stewart's

Melville FP), J Kerr (Haddington); A Donaldson (Currie), D B Millard

(London Scottish); G D Wilson (Boroughmuir), M W Scott (Edinburgh

Academicals), S W Ferguson (Peebles), C A Gray (Nottingham), captain, D

S Munro (Glasgow High/Kelvinside), A E D Macdonald (Heriot's FP), D J

McIvor (Edinburgh Academicals), I R Smith (Gloucester).

France A -- J-L Sadourny (Colomier); F Bertranck (Montferrand), P

Arletaz (Perpignan), J-C Larran (Tarbes), L Arbot (Perpignan); B Bellot

(Graulhet), F Galthie (Colomiers), captain; L Benezech (Racing), S

Morizot (Perpignan),

P Gallart (Beziers), Y Lemeur (Racing), O Merle (Grenoble), L Llopy


S Dispagne (Narbonne), J-M Lhermet (Montferrand). Replacement -- L

Labit (Castres) for Bellot (half-time).

Referee -- B Campsall (England).