PLAYING against a France team ranked third in the world, Scotland never looked like winning this Six Nations Championship match. But, given that they lost to the same opponents 55-0 just a year ago, this performance was nonetheless a real indication of how much they have improved.

It also represented considerable progress compared to the defeat by Wales eight days earlier. That loss in Colwyn Bay may have been far narrower – just 18-17 – but the fatal flaws in evidence then were largely absent last night.

France were deserved winners, taking an unshakable hold on the game with two quick tries just before half time when they had tighthead prop Patricia Carricaburu in the sin-bin. They added two more after the break to go home with a bonus-point victory, but they never threatened to run riot the way they had in La Rochelle in 2017 Six Nations.

“I’m really proud of them,” Scotland coach Shade Munro said of his team. “France are a very physical team, huge ability, No 3 in the world. We didn’t front up in the first half last week, we certainly did here. There are options that we should have taken but didn’t, but they put everything into the physicality side of the game. I was pleased with the performance.”

Sarah Law gave Scotland the lead with a penalty, but after that the most impressive aspect of their game was the defence, well-drilled and defiant against opponents who looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable in possession. Even that defence, however, could not stop hooker Agathe Sochat from barging over after a well co-ordinated driving maul to put France ahead.

Winger Cyrielle Banet got the second from a neat chip ahead by Pauline Bourdon, and Jessy Tremouliere, whose first conversion attempt had fallen short, made no mistake at the second time of asking to give her team a 12-3 half-time lead.

Scotland fought relentlessly in search of a breakthrough, but their best chance of a try was brought back for a forward pass.

Minutes later, winger Caroline Boujard broke through a tiring defence to claim her team’s third try. Tremouliere added the two points, then increased her tally by another couple with the final kick of the game after Jade Le Pesq secured the bonus point with an opportunistic try.

Scorers: Scotland: Pen: Law.

France: Tries: Sochat, Banet, Boujard, Le Pesq. Cons: Tremouliere 3.