Laidlaw kicks Scotland to tense victory over France

Laidlaw kicks Scotland to tense victory over France

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2018 Six Nations
Scotland (14) 32
Tries: Maitland, Jones Cons: Laidlaw 2 Pens: Laidlaw 6
France (20) 26
Tries: Thomas 2 Cons: Machenaud 2 Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2

Scotland put defeat by Wales behind them to overcome France at Murrayfield and revive their Six Nations campaign.

The first of two Teddy Thomas tries put France into an early 10-0 lead before Sean Maitland crossed for Scotland.

Thomas gathered a lucky bounce to score again but the hosts replied via Huw Jones’ try, only for Maxime Machenaud’s second penalty to put France 20-14 up.

Greig Laidlaw kicked six penalties, to two from Baptiste Serin, to steer the Scots home in a tense second half.

Scotland will next face reigning champions England at Murrayfield on Saturday, 24 February (16:45 KO), while France host Italy on Friday, 23 February (20:00 KO).

Six Nations table graphic

The fashion in which Scotland were swatted away by Wales on the opening day caused a hasty reassessment in some quarters of what Gregor Townsend’s men could realistically achieve in this championship, having been tipped by some as potential dark horses for the title.

France were nursing wounds of their own, having been denied victory against Ireland in Paris by a dramatic Johnny Sexton drop-goal in the last play of the game.

Thomas’ stunning try looked to have given France victory in that match before Sexton’s late heroics, and with less than three minutes on the clock in Edinburgh, the winger ripped the Scotland defence to shreds.

Collecting a pass five metres inside the Scottish half wide on the right, Thomas brushed off a weak Finn Russell tackle, skipped around Peter Horne and sprinted away from Stuart Hogg to coast over.

Machenaud’s conversion and subsequent penalty saw the nervous Murrayfield crowd looking at a scoreboard showing their team 10-0 down after 10 minutes. The Scotland response was, however, not long in coming.

A clever kick from Hogg forced an attacking line-out deep in French territory and after controlled phase play – something they struggled badly with last weekend – the Scots picked their moment to go wide, Russell timing the scoring pass to Maitland to perfection.

Scotland’s attacking style drew many plaudits in the autumn, and while Wales showd last weekend that they do not have a monopoly on ambitious rugby, France seemed intent on ramming it down their throats.

After pulling the hosts from side to side, the ball was shipped to Thomas. The Racing 92 flier chipped ahead and as a cruel bounce took the ball away from the covering Laidlaw, Thomas gathered to re-establish the 10-point lead.

Teddy Thomas scores a try for France

The next score was going to be crucial to Scottish confidence – on the field and in the stands – and the stadium erupted when Jones cut a gorgeous short line to take Laidlaw’s pass, slice through the France defence and go in under the posts.

Another Machenaud penalty gave the French a 20-14 half-time lead, but it was the Scots that began the second period on the front foot. Impressive recalled lock Grant Gilchrist blasted through a couple of tackles to get the French retreating and when they infringed on the floor, Laidlaw kicked Scotland back within three.

Serin, on for Machenaud at scrum-half, and Laidlaw traded penalties as the initiative swung one way and then another, with referee John Lacey’s whistle checking the momentum of both sides.

Serin struck again from the tee, but Laidlaw hit back once more, and going into the final quarter it seemed the team who could conjure a try would go on and win the game.

It was not to be though, with Townsend’s side instead being content instead to accept the penalty points that the greater authority in their play presented.

Laidlaw popped over his fourth penalty to level things up at 26-26 before Townsend sprung a surprise by removing captain John Barclay and Russell – guilty of a couple of basic errors – to make way for David Denton and Ali Price, with Laidlaw moving to fly-half.

The home side were in the ascendency, their replacements bringing the intended energy to their play, and with 10 minutes remaining Laidlaw’s fifth penalty gave them the lead for the first time.

Another, with four minutes left, gave the former captain a 22-point haul from a flawless eight shots at goal, and Murrayfield was soon erupting in relief and celebration.

The coach’s view – ‘Character and togetherness’

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Scotland boss Gregor Townsend: “I’m happier than last week, that’s for sure! The effort it takes to win a Test match is huge, and when you have to do it being behind for most of the game, that shows the character of the squad and the togetherness. We were a bit more direct, and we got our rewards.

“It was mentioned during the week [moving Laidlaw to fly-half], and we ran a couple of plays this morning. It was seeing how Greig was, and it looked like he could last the 80, but Ali Price brings so much from the bench [at scrum-half].

“He really upped the pace and Greig’s kicking was pretty good, so bringing Ali onto the ball was pretty positive to the team.”

Pundits’ analysis – ‘You do not get points for style’

Injured Wales flanker Sam Warburton on BBC One: “With Wales we have always said, coming to Murrayfield, we cannot give away penalties in our half if Greig Laidlaw is playing – more often than not he is going to convert them.

“Scotland were quite direct, they made France tackle and that makes teams tired. You crash at the 60-minute mark and I think the first half took its toll on the French. Penalties win matches, Greig kicked six in a row, and every time they went forward, France gave one away.”

Former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol on BBC One: “Six Nations rugby is about winning. You do not get points for style, for scoring great tries and playing with flair. It is about winning rugby games and Scotland had to do that today.”

Former France flanker Olivier Magne on BBC One: “I am very disappointed. I was very excited by the first half and thought France could maintain the speed and tempo like that during the second half. But our Top 14 doesn’t prepare us to play like that for 80 minutes – we can play 40 minutes at a good level but the second half was too difficult for us.”

Team line-ups:

Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Jones, Horne, Maitland; Russell, Laidlaw; Reid, McInally, Berghan, Gilchrist, Gray, Barclay (capt), Watson, Wilson.

Replacements: Lawson, Bhatti (for Reid, 58), Welsh, Toolis (for Gilchrist, 58), Denton (for Barclay, 65), Price (for Russell, 65), Harris, Kinghorn.

France: Palis; Thomas, Lamerat, Doumayrou, Vakatawa; Beauxis, Machenaud; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Slimani, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Camara, Tauleigne

Replacements: Pelissie (for Guirado, 75), Ben Arous (for Poirot, 58), Gomes Sa (for Slimani, 58), Gabrillagues, Picamoles (for Tauleigne, 58), Serin (for Machenaud, 41), Belleau (for Beauxis, 71), Fall (for Vakatawa, 71).

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

Touch judges: Nigel Owens (Wales) & Paul Williams (New Zealand)

TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Match stats
Scotland France
57% Possession 43%
60% Territory 40%
6 (0) Scrums won (lost) 4 (0)
8 (1) Line-outs won (lost) 7 (1)
10 Pens conceded 13
105 (4) Rucks/mauls won (lost) 76 (6)
26 Kicks from hand 26
105 (22) Tackles made (missed) 127 (19)
410 Metres made 315
8 Offloads 13
7 Line breaks 5

Published at Sun, 11 Feb 2018 17:50:14 +0000

Newcastle shock Man Utd to win first home league game since October

Newcastle winger Matt Ritchie celebrates scoring his goal

Newcastle won a Premier League home game for the first time since October with a surprise victory over second-placed Manchester United.

Matt Ritchie scored the only goal in the second half as the Magpies climbed out of the relegation zone and left the visitors 16 points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

The Red Devils missed a string of chances to take something from a ground at which manager Jose Mourinho is yet to win a league match.

But debutant Martin Dubravka was excellent in the Newcastle goal, denying Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Ashley Young and Michael Carrick.

And the hosts could have had a first-half penalty when Chris Smalling tripped Dwight Gayle.

Defeat for Manchester United raises the prospect of Manchester City being crowned champions when the teams meet at Etihad Stadium on 7 April.

Should both teams win all of their league matches prior to that, City would only need to draw with their fierce rivals to secure the title that day.

Newcastle go the distance for deserved win

Matt Ritchie tackles Alexis Sanchez

Mourinho said after the game that Newcastle had fought “like animals” – and the hosts certainly produced a fierce and committed performance.

The Magpies made more sprints (553 to their opponents’ 490), ran further (115km to 105km), and in DeAndre Yedlin and Ritchie had the game’s fastest and most industrious players.

Manager Rafael Benitez may be hoping recent signing Islam Slimani, who missed this game, can add more to an attack that only managed three shots on target, but Ritchie was clinical when it mattered.

Smalling was penalised for a dive that allowed the impressive Jonjo Shelvey to send in a free-kick. The equally eye-catching Florian Lejeune headed it down, and Ritchie collected Gayle’s flick to shoot past David de Gea.

That ended a run of 43 shots without a Premier League goal for Ritchie – and gave Newcastle their first home win in the league since 21 October.

Prior to the match they were just one point better off than in their 2015-16 relegation season, but this win moved them up to 13th – and only three points behind 10th-placed Bournemouth.

Same team, similar problems to Wembley

United defender Chris Smalling cuts a frustrated figure at the end

Mourinho’s decision to select the same starting XI that lost convincingly to top-four rivals Tottenham last month may have unsettled some visiting fans.

But, while the Red Devils were much better here than during an abject display at Wembley, some familiar flaws resurfaced.

Then, Phil Jones missed a crucial first header in the build-up to Christian Eriksen’s early goal. Here, nobody tracked Lejeune as he ran between Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba to head down for Ritchie to score.

Smalling won just 53% of his headed duels, compared to 77% and 75% respectively for Newcastle’s central-defensive pairing of Lejeune and Jamaal Lascelles.

It suggests a defensive diffidence at odds with a manager who traditionally builds title-winning teams from the back.

Overall, the visitors had the better chances but were thwarted by Dubravka, who notably stuck out a leg to deny Martial as he latched onto a wonderful, defence-splitting pass from Nemanja Matic in the first half.

Had that chance – or a header from the French forward – gone in, there may well have been a different outcome.

Instead, with Spurs and Liverpool increasing the pressure on them, Mourinho’s side must assert more aerial dominance and show better focus at the back.

Man of the match – Martin Dubravka (Newcastle)

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka catches the ball

Geordie jinx goes on for Jose – the stats

  • Mourinho has never won a Premier League match at St James’ Park (P7 W0 D3 L4) and has managed more away league games at Newcastle without winning than at any other club in his career.
  • Mourinho has lost six times against Benitez in all competitions. Only against Pep Guardiola (nine) has he suffered more defeats as a manager.
  • Newcastle enjoyed their first win in nine Premier League home games (D3 L5), since beating Crystal Palace in October.
  • Manchester United have lost five games in the Premier League this season, equalling their tally for the whole of last season.
  • Ritchie ended a run of 43 shots this season without scoring in the Premier League, which was the longest such run in the division.
  • Gayle has had a hand in a goal in both of Newcastle’s Premier League matches against Manchester United this season, scoring at Old Trafford in November before assisting Ritchie here.
  • The Red Devils have won only one of the nine Premier League matches this season after conceding the opening goal of the game (D3 L5) – a 4-1 win over Newcastle in November.
  • Manchester United have had three players booked for dives in the Premier League this season (Valencia, Herrera, Smalling), a joint high along with Bournemouth.

‘We could have been here 10 hours and not scored’ – what they said

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on Match of the Day: “My verdict is we could’ve been here for 10 hours and not scored a goal. Newcastle played with their lives and defended with their lives.

“They got from us a defensive mistake and from a lateral free-kick they scored. The gods of football were clearly in their side. They must have an amazing feeling after giving absolutely everything

“We had some [chances] with the score at 0-0. Alexis [Sanchez] had an open goal and then the countless opportunities of the last 20-25 minutes. The double [miss] of Martial is incredible in the last minute.”

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Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez said: “We worked as hard as other games, but against a team like Manchester United every ball is important, they can punish you, so you work like them. Amazing effort.

“They are dangerous, but the teamwork we showed to fight for every ball was amazing. I am pleased for the players and the fans. Because we won here at home.

“We had games in past when conceded late. We got lucky with some shots, but we showed the character, the commitment and the desire today.”

On Martin Dubravka’s debut: “He can buy the lottery and win today. He was composed and that gave confidence to the team. All the players worked hard, so it is not fair to say just the goalkeeper played well.”

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What’s next?

Manchester United travel to Huddersfield in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, 17 February (17:30 GMT), while Newcastle head to Bournemouth in the league on Saturday, 24 February (15:00 GMT).



  • 12Dubravka
  • 22Yedlin
  • 6Lascelles
  • 20Lejeune
  • 3Dummett
  • 11Ritchie
  • 8Shelvey
  • 10Diamé
  • 15KenedySubstituted forAtsuat 84′minutes
  • 17PérezSubstituted forHaydenat 90+4′minutes
  • 9GayleSubstituted forJoseluat 80′minutes


  • 7Murphy
  • 14Hayden
  • 19Manquillo
  • 21Joselu
  • 23Merino
  • 26Darlow
  • 30Atsu

Man Utd

  • 1de Gea
  • 25A ValenciaBooked at 88mins
  • 12SmallingBooked at 64mins
  • 4Jones
  • 18Young
  • 6PogbaSubstituted forCarrickat 66′minutes
  • 31MaticSubstituted forMcTominayat 77′minutes
  • 11Martial
  • 14LingardSubstituted forMataat 66′minutes
  • 7Sánchez
  • 9R Lukaku


  • 2Lindelöf
  • 5Rojo
  • 8Mata
  • 16Carrick
  • 20Romero
  • 23Shaw
  • 39McTominay
Craig Pawson

Match Stats

Home TeamNewcastleAway TeamMan Utd
Shots on Target

Live Text

Match ends, Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 0.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 0.

Attempt missed. Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.

Attempt saved. Michael Carrick (Manchester United) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Juan Mata.


Substitution, Newcastle United. Isaac Hayden replaces Ayoze Pérez.

Ashley Young (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Joselu (Newcastle United).

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Christian Atsu.

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Christian Atsu.

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by DeAndre Yedlin.

Michael Carrick (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Joselu (Newcastle United).

Delay over. They are ready to continue.


Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Delay in match Christian Atsu (Newcastle United) because of an injury.

Foul by Antonio Valencia (Manchester United).

Christian Atsu (Newcastle United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Phil Jones (Manchester United).

Joselu (Newcastle United) wins a free kick on the left wing.


Substitution, Newcastle United. Christian Atsu replaces Kenedy.

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Jamaal Lascelles.


Substitution, Newcastle United. Joselu replaces Dwight Gayle.

Juan Mata (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Kenedy (Newcastle United).

Attempt blocked. Anthony Martial (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Attempt blocked. Anthony Martial (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.


Substitution, Manchester United. Scott McTominay replaces Nemanja Matic.

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Paul Dummett.

Attempt blocked. Kenedy (Newcastle United) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jonjo Shelvey.

Offside, Manchester United. Antonio Valencia tries a through ball, but Romelu Lukaku is caught offside.

Foul by Michael Carrick (Manchester United).

Ayoze Pérez (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Paul Dummett.

Attempt saved. Ashley Young (Manchester United) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Michael Carrick.


Substitution, Manchester United. Juan Mata replaces Jesse Lingard.


Substitution, Manchester United. Michael Carrick replaces Paul Pogba.


Goal! Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 0. Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Dwight Gayle following a set piece situation.


Chris Smalling (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card.

Chris Smalling (Manchester United) has gone down, but that’s a dive.

Anthony Martial (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the right wing.


Published at Sun, 11 Feb 2018 17:41:19 +0000