RESULTS of World Cup warm-up matches aren’t meant to be all-important. But Scotland have rarely been more relieved to record a meaningless victory than they were yesterday.

After the trauma of last week’s 32-3 humbling in Nice, the measure of revenge which the Scots exacted against the same opponents at BT Murrayfield yesterday will allow things to settle down a little bit in the week to ten days which remain until Gregor Townsend finalises his 31-man squad for the global showpiece in Japan. The relief was palpable when Stuart Hogg booted the ball high into the stand shortly after the match clock had ticked to 80 minutes.

Make no mistake, as displays go, this was still far from perfect. At points in that first half, as the Scots trailed 14-3, some feared this might be a case of déjà vu all over again.


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And it didn’t come without a cost either, with lock forward Sam Skinner having to be helped off with what appeared a serious injury to his left leg during the second period, and both wing Tommy Seymour and new boy Blade Thomson off with head knocks. If fit, all three are almost certain to be members of the travelling party.

It was a patchy and error-strewn display, at times from both teams, with silly penalties given away aplenty, but there was certainly no doubting the Scottish character. The hero of the hour was Chris Harris, the bustling Newcastle Falcons centre, who pierced the French defensive line for the decisive try, having also put in the big hit which encouraged Damian Penaud to cough up possession in the lead-up to Sean Maitland’s opener. And to be fair to their beleaguered defensive unit, the 14 points they surrendered was their least in any match since last November.

While only Stuart Hogg remained from the starting XV who were crushed in Nice, the French took a different approach. They made four changes, with disgraced lock Paul Gabrillagues dropping out and captain and hooker Guilhem Guirado being recalled. But the start was every bit as disastrous for the Scots as it had been seven days ago.

Once again, the match clock had yet to hit two minutes and the Scots’ try line had already been breached. The culprit on this occasion was Pete Horne, the versatile Glasgow Warriors centre/fly half doing little to free himself from a crowded race for a centre spot with a laboured, telegraphed pass which went straight into the clutches of the waiting Penaud. The quicksilver Clermont wing cantered over the line untouched and Thomas Ramos added the conversion.


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Horne took out his frustrations with a thumping tackle on last week’s tormentor Aliverati Raka, while captain Greig Laidlaw slotted a penalty to cut Scottish arrears after a French offside. The Scots were doing better in the contact area than last week, even if at times they were overly physical. When a thumping hit from new boy Blade Thomson set up a Sean Maitland break, Ryan Wilson was penalised for going beyond the ruck to tackle a man without the ball.

Seymour, having felt the wrath of Raka on more than one occasion, limped up the tunnel with the kind of untimely injury which can compromise a man’s World Cup hopes. But the Scots, including talismen Finn Russell and Hogg, were still looking rusty. A fumble from the mercurial fly half played a part in the second French try of the day, run in again by that man Penaud after a lightning break and pass from Sofiane Guitoune.

This was Scotland the soft touch again, onlookers most have been thinking, the side under Gregor Townsend which had conceded no fewer than 18 points in any game this year. But they dug deep and things got better. With fly half Camille Lopez unable to continue with injury, some added physicality in the tackle from Chris Harris encouraged Penaud to drop an ambitious pass in a dangerous area, and first substitute Blair Kinghorn then Harris himself were barnstorming towards the line. When it eventually went wide, Russell’s cute lofted pass was met by Maitland for the first try of Scotland’s World Cup warm-up matches. The feelgood factor was back when Laidlaw potted the conversion from out wide.

The second half would disintegrate into its usual array of substitutions as both teams felt the heat on a sweltering day in the capital. There was a special cheer when John Barclay climbed off the bench to replace new boy Thomson, with Allan Dell introduced into the fray for Gordon Reid.


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Kinghorn got on the end of some exceptional take and kick from Russell only to fluff his lines when it came to the pass, then confirmed again what he has to offer with an 80 yard chase from another Russell kick which saw the Scots win a penalty deep in the French twenty two. Had the Scots had the vision to tap and go wide rather than kick for the line-out the try may have been theirs.

We didn’t have to wait long, though. The Scots were soon back under the posts and Chris Harris chose a great angle to get on the end of a Laidlaw pass and puncture the French defence. A try he deserved for his all-round display, Harris may have just booked his place on that plane.

Whether Sam Skinner joins him there is another matter, the Exeter Chiefs man and former England youth cap, being helped out of the fray after sustaining damage to his left knee area at the base of a ruck. With Ryan Wilson in the wars too, you wondered about the wisdom of keeping Hogg in the fray but the crowd weren’t complaining - a thrilling kick and chase which saw him dragged down metres from the try line. In the end, Scotland didn’t need any more points to see out the match. That alone should be cause for celebration as the World Cup approaches.

Scotland 17

Tries: Maitland, Harris. Cons: Laidlaw 2. Pen: Laidlaw

France 14

Try: Penaud 2. Conversion: Ramos 2.