France was at its best with six attempts to beat Scotland 36-17 at Murrayfield on Saturday to claim three out of three wins at this year’s Six Nations Championship.
Two attempts in the first 13 minutes provided notice of their form and status as tournament favorites, with Paul Willemsee and Yoram Movana going early.
There were four more attempts by Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty and Damien Penaud (2) in a devastating performance, with Melvyn Jaminet adding three diversions.
Scotland offered resistance in stages but crossed the line only twice through loose striker Rory Darg, to start his first start for the home side, and Dohan van der Merwe. Finn Russell converted one attempt and added a penalty while Stewart Hogg converted the other.
Early French dominance caught Scotland in the cold as Willemsee finished off a move fired by obfuscation Antoine Dupont, and Jinxing blasted from deep in his own half to score the first after eight minutes.
Some detailed unloading and daring passes ended with Moefana crossing the line also five minutes later, as the French continued to give early notice.
But their hosts made their way back into the game and returned the lead to 12-10 near the end of the first half after Darg’s attempt.
Just before the break, Van der Merwe broke through the French lines to blast off the field, feeding Chris Harris who threw a long pass to Stewart Hogg that proved out of reach for Scotland’s Skippers with the test line waiting in front of him.
The knockout cost the hosts a certain try at a crucial juncture and proved to be a turning point in the competition.
Two minutes later, Fico ran from one end of the field to the other for a superb individual effort to lead France to the break 19-10.
This was followed by another blow to the hosts right after the appeal as Dante’s strength saw France add an extra point on the fourth attempt as he managed to chase down a long kick and put the visitors ahead.
The fifth attempt came an hour later as France stripped the ball from the beleaguered Scotsman and Benod ran off to score in the corner – and he got another 15 minutes later, at the end of a clever Romain Ntamak cross-kick.
There was an attempt at consolation for Van der Merwe at the end of the match but it was no consolation for a devastating defeat.
“It was a match that we prepared with great care,” said France coach Fabien Galthe.”The players had an extraordinary fight, there was a lot of intensity and commitment.”
France, which hosts the World Cup next year, retained the top spot in the standings and remain the only team that can still win major tournaments – with Wales on March 11 and England at home on March 19 on the fixture list.
“I left someone out and we could have changed the momentum of the game,” Hough said of the missed opportunity near the end of the first half.
“This is something you devastated me about.”