SCOTLAND produced a performance that blended defensive grit and attacking guile to end France’s hopes of a first Grand Slam in a decade. It was a second win in a row following the 17-0 defeat of Italy, and takes Gregor Townsend’s team up to third in the Six Nations table.

Winning in Cardiff on Saturday to ensure a top-half finish will be a tall order, but the squad will travel in an optimistic frame of mind after coolly dismantling their hot-headed visitors. The French, now level on points with England at the top of the table, have to pick themselves up for a home game with Ireland.

France had been more disciplined and pragmatic since Shaun Edwards joined their coaching team, but they fell badly short of their previous standards here. Francois Cros was sinbinned early in the game, and more damagingly, Mohamed Haouas was sent off before half-time for punching Jamie Ritchie in the face. Stand-off Romain Ntamack’s game ended in the first half too after he took a head knock, and although scrum-half Antoine Dupont produced some exquisite touches, there was only so much he could do on his own.

By contrast, the Scots played consistently well throughout. Ritchie was named man of the match and he and back-row colleague Hamish Watson again played a vital role at the breakdown, while Sean Maitland chipped in with two tries and Stuart McInally added a late third. Adam Hastings added the other points with his boot, while Stuart Hogg’s characteristic self-confidence galvanised his team.

France had had to make a late change to their bench, bringing Toulouse hooker Peato Mauvaka in for Camille Chat, who injured himself during the warm-up. That change may not have had disrupted them, but the three others in the first half did: the loss of Cros for a dangerous tackle on Grant Gilchrist, the departure of Ntamack after failing an HIA, and the dismissal of Haouas. Cros seemed unlucky to be singled out for his tackle on Gilchrist, as it was Paul Willemse who came in second and appeared to tip up the Scots lock.

A man down at the first scrum, the French were penalised for not driving straight, and Adam Hastings opened the scoring with a simple effort from 25 metres. Hastings added another, longer effort near the midway point in the half, but then the French attack flickered into life.

A break down the left flank by Gael Fickou was halted by the Scots defence, but only at the expense of throwing too many men into the breakdown. When the ball came back, a moment of inspiration from Dupont created the first try of the game, as his punt was collected and touched down in the right corner by Damian Penaud. Mathieu Jalibert, Ntamack’s replacement, converted from the touchline to give his team the lead.

Scotland tried to counter immediately, but their momentum was halted when a brawl involving several players from both sides broke out close to the French posts. Haouas’ offence was the most blatant - at least after several reviews of the incident - and he was sent off for the right hook on Ritchie.

Another penalty in front of the posts produced another three points for Hastings and Scotland, then in the last play of the half Maitland added a try, finishing off a move involving Gilchrist, Hogg and Sam Johnson. Hastings missed the conversion to leave the score at 14-7 at half-time.

That became 21-7 five minutes into the second half, with Maitland again touching down and Hastings converting. Hogg was the instigator this time, breaking from midfield after Hamish Watson had turned over a French attack, and some slick passing involving Chris Harris and Ali Price ended up with Johnson again giving the winger the space he needed to score.

A Jalibert penalty took France into double figures to revive their hopes of a late recovery, but then came McInally’s try. He threw in poorly to a lineout, but the ball bounced off a French lock, allowing the hooker to collect and race clear from 20 metres out.

Hastings converted to make it 28-10, and although Charles Ollivon got a score back five minutes from time, with Jalibert converting, it was too little to late for the French.