Scotland overcame the loss of Ben White and Zander Fagerson in a rousing comeback to defeat France 25-21 in an exhilarating Rugby World Cup warmup at Murrayfield on Saturday.
A largely second-string France was on course for a comfortable victory as it eased into a 21-3 halftime lead.
But the Scots, despite Fagerson being red-carded in the second half, roared back for a morale-boosting win with tries from Darcy Graham, Pierre Schoeman and replacement hooker Dave Cherry.
The shine was taken off the triumph, however, by the sight of scrumhalf White limping off with a worrying ankle injury just four weeks out from their World Cup opener against South Africa. Coach Gregor Townsend said White came into camp with an ankle injury.
They will also face an anxious wait to learn the fate of prop Fagerson following his dismissal. Townsend said Fagerson has to tackle better.
The coach made 13 changes to the experimental team that defeated Italy a week previously, with most of his big-hitters restored.
Finn Russell was handed the captaincy for the first time in the absence of regular skipper Jamie Ritchie, who missed out with a minor calf injury which medical staff hope will subside in time for next weekend’s rematch between the teams in Saint-Etienne.
The French started three debutants in flanker Paul Boudehent, center Emilien Gailleton and wing Louis Bielle-Biarrey, with Antoine Dupont, Gael Fickou and Romain Ntamack among a raft of established players given the weekend off.
They seized the initiative in scintillating fashion in the 14th minute when scrumhalf Baptiste Couilloud was set free to bound over the line after a brilliant break down the right involving Bielle-Biarrey and Matthieu Jalibert, who made the conversion.
Then Bielle-Biarrey found a gap on the left and darted majestically through it after being fed by Jalibert, who converted again.
Scotland’s woes deepened when White left injured after half an hour. White punched the bench in frustration before having his ankle bandaged up by medics and limping down the tunnel.
The Scots thought they reduced the deficit in the 33rd minute but a Duhan van der Merwe try was disallowed due to a forward pass.
A poor first half for the home side was compounded in the last action before the break when Cameron Woki picked the ball up at the back of a ruck and plunged over.
“At halftime, I thought, ‘Here we go, first time as captain and we’re going to lose by 30 points,’” Russell said.
“We took another step forward today but next week will be a different team that we face. It will show us where we are leading up to the World Cup.”
Scotland started the second period in brighter fashion when Graham ran to a crossfield kick by Russell and planted the ball under pressure from Ethan Dumortier.
Just as the hosts looked to be finding their way back into the match, though, they suffered another blow in the 50th when Fagerson was sin-binned for a high challenge on Pierre Bourgarit. Following a bunker review, the offense was upgraded to a red card.
However, the 14 men further reduced France’s lead in the 54th when Schoeman bulldozed his way over.
The Scots were rampant, and a Blair Kinghorn try was ruled out for a knock-on by Graham.
Remarkably, they went ahead in the 67th after Cherry pushed his way over. Russell’s conversion hit the post but his penalty kick six minutes later gave them a four-point lead.
In the last couple of minutes, France had an attacking lineout and two scrums but Scotland repelled them to cap a thrilling win.
Source : AP News