Scotland 32-26 France: Gregor Townsend praises Scots’ resilience
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend hailed his side’s resilience after they came from behind to beat France and revive their Six Nations campaign.
The Scots trailed 10-0 early on and 20-14 at half-time but six Greig Laidlaw penalties guided them to victory.
“The effort it takes to win a Test is huge, especially when you are behind for most of the game, so that shows the character in the squad,” said Townsend.
“We were a bit more direct in the second half, and we got our rewards.”
Townsend made six changes to his side after their crushing opening defeat by Wales in Cardiff, including restoring former captain Laidlaw at scrum-half.
It was a surprise though – including to Laidlaw – when the 32-year-old was moved to fly-half, where he won 11 of his first 13 caps, with 15 minutes to go, Ali Price coming on at scrum-half with starting 10 Finn Russell taken off.
“It was mentioned during the week and we ran a couple of plays this morning,” Townsend told BBC Sport.
“It was really about seeing how Greig was. He looked like he could last 80 minutes, and Ali brings so much from the bench. He really upped the pace, and Greig was kicking pretty well, so we thought keeping him on and getting Ali onto the ball was a positive for the team.
“We were much better this week. To get back into the game and to be much more accurate than last week was pleasing.
“All the carriers in the team did well – Huw Jones getting on the ball, Stuart Hogg outside, Peter Horne worked really hard. The forwards had such a massive game in the set-piece, but they were still willing carriers right to the end.”
Laidlaw, who was named man-of-the-match, admitted he was “slightly surprised” to be moved to fly-half, moments after levelling the scores at 26-26 with his fourth penalty of the second half.
“I was rolling back the years a little bit there,” he told BBC Sport. “Thankfully it turned out well. Ali came on and speeded the game up, and we were able to close it out.
“It wasn’t pretty at times but sometimes that’s international rugby. Sometimes you have to kick and respect their defence. France were tough, it was an incredibly tight game.
“I am so, so proud of this team. The whole team really dug in at the end and the forward pack in particular were tremendous.
“It’s felt like a long time coming back from injury and I’m not a very good watcher, as my wife will tell you, so it’s great to get back on this field, in this jersey and in front of this crowd.”
Two tries from France wing Teddy Thomas, either side of a Sean Maitland score for Scotland, put the visitors 17-7 up before Jones’ try brought Scotland to within three points, but they still trailed 20-14 at the interval, and 23-17 after 47 minutes.
“We made it hard on ourselves again,” said captain John Barclay. “We got off to a poor start but at half-time, six points down, we were still excited.
“We felt like we were testing them and knew if we held onto the ball, we would cause them trouble. Every time we got the ball in the second half, we came away with points. We were a lot more accurate than last week but still not quite there.
“We knew we had to put in a good performance after last week, so we are delighted to get the win. We will have a week off now and then we can build towards England.”
Scotland will next face reigning champions England, who are bidding for a historic third straight Six Nations title, at Murrayfield on Saturday, 24 February (16:45 KO).
Scotland have not beaten England since 2008, with nine defeats and a draw in the interim.
“It is a few years since we turned them over, so hopefully we can get them this time,” Laidlaw added.