Kavanagh (3), Hellewell (63), A. Walker (75), J. Walker (77)
Marginet (14, 22, 28), Baitieri (19), Pelissier (24), Decarnin (34), Gigot (38)
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP - GAME 5
A sensational climax saw Scotland stay in contention for their first-ever European crown despite going down 38-22 to France at Galashiels.
Steve McCormack’s men needed to avoid defeat by 17 points to end France’s hopes and trailed by the half time score of 38-6 with only 17 minutes to go. But, in a rousing finish, three tries and two Danny Brough goals denied the French the chance of taking the title and with it qualification for the 2016 Four Nations tournament.
The Bravehearts’ fate now rests in the hands of Ireland in the final match of the tournament. If Mark Aston’s men defeat Wales in Wrexham on Sunday afternoon by a margin of 41 points, they will lift the cup and, as an additional bonus, qualify for the 2017 World Cup.
"At half time we told a few home truths, that wasn't the Scotland way in the first half,” said McCormack, “But credit to France, everything they did was good.
“We asked the lads for a bit more honesty and reminded them we had an awful lot to play for and the second half was sensational. Hopefully Wales can do us a favour on Sunday against Ireland.”
France looked to have well and truly spoiled the Scots 20th anniversary party - the Gala guests including 1954 World Cup winner David Rose, brothers Stan and Ron Cowan, George Fairbairn and Rob Valentine, who were introduced to Netherdale crowd at the interval – Richard Agar’s men running in seven tries in 24 blistering minutes.
That included a 14-minute hat trick for livewire scrum half Remy Marginet who finished with 22 points in a man of the match display. In front of several members of the very first Scotland team in 1994 – including Graeme Thompson, coach John Risman and current Gala RU coach George Graham – the hosts got off to a perfect start, Ben Kavanagh barging over from close range after three minutes and Brough goaling.
A good break by Danny Addy and offload to Oscar Thomas looked set to add points but, from there on in for the remainder of the half, it was all France. The visitors had a try disallowed for a forward pass but, almost immediately, Marginet darted through to score and goaled to level.Skipper Jason Baitieri then went over, Marginet goaling and, exploiting the increasing space at dummy half, the French went on the rampage.
A sweeping move from deep within their own half saw Marginet on hand to zip clear for his second try and, although he missed the conversion, two minutes later substitute Eloi Pelissier shot across, with the goal attempt again going wide.
Marginet’s electric pace made up for that when he completed his quick-fire treble, his goal to make it 26-6 seeing France lead the competition table on point’s difference. On the half hour, play was halted for an injury to Callum Phillips but that failed to dampen the French joie de vivre, Aurelian Decarnin finishing off a sweeping move created by Kevin Larroyer and Jean-Philippe Baille to go over in the right hand corner, Marginet with the touchline conversion.
Just before the break, Tony Gigot crossed and Marginet’s fifth goal made it 38-6; it seeming inconceivable that his conversion would be the last Tricolors points of the game.
Scotland dominated the third quarter territorially but without being able to crack the French defence, a knock on just short of the line scuppering them in the 57th minute and a great jinking run by Thomas taking him to within a couple of metres of the line.
But, in the 63rd minute, Ben Hellewell outpaced the visiting defence to touch down in the right hand corner and, although the conversion was missed by Brough, Scotland were 11 points short of the margin needed to stay top.
An intense spell of home pressure then paid off when Adam Walker forced his way over, Brough goaling to set up a nervous last five minutes. With two to go, Jonny Walker charged through the static French defence, Brough coolly converting to set off wild scenes of celebration despite defeat.
Joe Wardle, Thomas and the Walker brothers impressed for the Bravehearts in a second forty minutes when they did not concede a point to remain on the edge of glory.
Danny Addy, Josh Barlow, Danny Brough, Harvey Burnett, Sonny Esslemont, Ben Hellewell, Alex Hurst, Ben Kavanagh, Corbyn Kilday, Nathan Massey, Callum Peters, David Scott, Louis Senter,Oscar Thomas, Adam Walker, Joe Wardle, Jonathan Walker
Jean-Philippe Baile, Jason Baitieri, Julian Bousquet, Damien Cardace, Aurelian Decarnin, Theo Fages, Jamal Fakir, Benjamin Garcia, Tony Gigot, Kevin Larroyer, Remy Marginet, Antony Maria, Mathias Pala, Elio Pelissier, Michael Simon, Frederic Vaccari, Aaron Wood