Never mind the title, France couldn’t even win the match, as Duhan van der Merwe’s dramatic, match-winning, injury-time try in Paris meant a joyous climax to the Six Nations for both Wales and Scotland.
Going into this delayed decider needing to win by 21 points and score four tries, France’s ambitions were reduced to dust. Fabien Galthie’s side were given a taste of their own medicine. Six days after denying Wales a Grand Slam when Brice Dulin touched down in the last play of that classic contest, the hosts were subjected to the same agonising twist, courtesy of Edinburgh wing Van der Merwe.
With eight minutes remaining at the Stade de France, Finn Russell was sent off for raising his arm and making contact with Dulin’s neck. The removal of their inspirational playmaker appeared to snuff out any remaining Scottish hope of claiming a first win in this fixture since 1999, but they were still able to snatch a famous result.
Duhan van der Merwe’s late try sealed a 27-23 for Scotland over France – their first win in Paris since 1999
Scotland achieved a historic win, with France’s loss also earning Wales the Six Nations title
They were gifted one last opportunity when Dulin recklessly failed to kick the ball off the field in his own 22, with the 80 minutes up on the clock. France conceded a ruck penalty and Scotland launched one last frantic onslaught, which culminated with Adam Hastings flinging the ball out to Van der Merwe, who stepped inside Damian Penaud and crossed on the left for his second try of the game, to settle it in favour of the visitors. Hastings converted, for good measure.
The euphoria among the Scotland players was matched by nationwide jubilation in Wales. This was a landmark result for one Celtic nation and a landmark tournament success for another. The title often ended up in Welsh hands during Warren Gatland’s tenure, but now the trophy has been regained under another Kiwi head coach, Wayne Pivac.
France’s target last night had appeared far-fetched and so it proved. In the eyes of many, they had started this championship as favourites for a first European conquest since 2010, but their campaign lurched through controversy, to end in despondency.
France needed a bonus point victory and a 21-point winning margin to claim the title
Van der Merwe made France’s job a lot harder by going over early on in the first-half
A COVID outbreak saw head coach Galthie, 11 players and staff members test positive, leading to criticism of bubble breaches, but an investigative whitewash.
The French government had adopted a tough, even threatening tone before the Six Nations, in asserting their determination to reduce the risk of virus transmission, but it was the French team which went on to jeopardise the event. They may be the best team, but it was a certain justice that they did not finish top of the table.
France are runners-up and the Scots wound up two places lower, despite their campaign ending just as it began, with a momentous victory away from home. On the opening weekend, they clinched a first win over England at Twickenham for 38 years. Last night, they claimed the spoils in the French capital for the first time since 1999.
Brice Dulin went over late in the first-half to give France hope at the Stade de France
Damian Pernaud have France more optimism after the break for their second try of the game
Gregor Townsend, Scotland’s head coach, was still playing back then and he said: ‘Now we can get rid of all those images from 1999! I’m so proud of the team for coming through the adversity of not having a full squad, the red card and the yellow card. They came back showing courage and skill. I’m just so happy for the players. Even though we finished fourth, it feels like one of our best seasons.’
It was Scotland captain Stuart Hogg who had gone to the sin-bin, just before half-time.
But that setback and the late loss of Russell did not prevent an historic upset and Hogg said: I’m absolutely delighted. We started this Six Nations in the best possible way at Twickenham and some of our results and performances have been outstanding. We can go on to build towards something memorable. I’m captain of a very, very proud nation.’
Dave Cherry produced yet another try for Scotland to frustrate France even further
Swan Rebbadj went over for France with 14 minutes to go to keep their faint hopes alive
Romain Ntamack’s early penalty put France ahead, but Scotland responded and Van der Merwe scored his first try in the 15th minute, after hooker George Turner blasted through the home 22. Russell added the conversion and a penalty, before Ntamack hit back with a second shot of his own at the other end.
Antoine Dupont and Penaud combined to set up a try for Dulin four minutes before half-time and Ntamack added the extras.
The French lead grew when Clermont Auvergne wing Penaud conjured a brilliant solo try, but Scotland turned the tables with Russell striking a penalty and then converting a close-range try by Dave Cherry. Swan Rebbadj crashed over for France with 14 minutes remaining but Van der Merwe had the last word, Scotland had their win and Wales had their prize.
Scotland fly-half Finn Russell was sent off for a hand-off on Dulin’s throat late on
Van der Merwe’s late try six minutes into the red sparked jubliant scenes for Scotland
Take a look at how Sportsmail’s SAM BLITZ reacted to the Six Nations decider on the live blog…