|Bastareaud celebrates his second try [GALLO/GETTY]|
Mathieu Bastareaud’s rugby redemption was complete at Murrayfield as tournament favourites France kicked off their Six Nations campaign with a convincing 18-9 win over Scotland.
Bastareaud touched down twice in the first half and France were only denied another two tries before half-time by some last-ditch Scottish defending.
Flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc orchestrated the French attacks and Scotland were restricted to just three penalties by Chris Paterson.
“Scotland is a team with a big heart and it is hard to play against them,” man of the match Imanol Harinordoquy said.
“When we want to win, we know we have to give a big performance.
“We won the match in the scrum and in the fight.”
France joined defending champions Ireland and England on two points in the standings.
France host Ireland next weekend, England travel to Italy and Scotland are at Wales.
Bastareaud was the difference between the two sides, his two first-half tries putting the French in control of an open contest and justifying coach Marc Lievremont’s decision to hand the player the opportunity to resurrect a career he had done his best to destroy.
The centre was starting his first Test since his ignominious involvement in last year’s tour of New Zealand, during which he falsely claimed to have been beaten up by All Black fans in order to cover up a drunken fall in his hotel bedroom.
The bizarre episode quickly spiralled out of control with diplomatic relations between France and New Zealand becoming strained and Bastareaud himself, a shy 21-year-old, was hospitalised after an apparent suicide attempt on his return to France.
France showed their intent from the kick-off with a huge hit on Kelly Brown but it was the tackler Aurelien Rougerie who suffered a knock himself minutes later and had to go off.
France had the early pressure but Scotland then went on the attack and earned a penalty that Chris Paterson landed.
From the restart France threatened again, this time replacement Vincent Clerc chipping and collecting only for effort to be thwarted by a tap tackle by Brown and the try-saving strength of Thom Evans who turned Clerc onto his back.
But it only delayed a French try as from a scrum five metres out France attacked off the base and two powerful drives by Harinordoquy sucked in the home defence to allow Bastareaud to score on the overlap.
A penalty apiece by Paterson and Morgan Parra kept the margin of at two points but when France won a turnover and swept the ball left to Bastareaud, the powerhouse had little problem in scoring his second try, Parra converting for a 15-6 lead.
The gap widened just after the break with a second penalty by Parra but again Paterson added points for Scotland with his third success to trim the lead to nine.
France came close to scoring through their forwards with a series of scrums close to the Scotland line but the Scots, heavily under pressure in the front row held out.
The French backs showed further glimpses of their finger-tip passing but for the most part the second half became a slog with France’s first-half efforts proving decisive.
|France’s Vincent Clerc feels the Scottish defence [GALLO/GETTY]|
Scotland coach Andy Robinson said there were positives to be taken out of the match ahead of next week’s clash with 2008 Grand Slam winners Wales.
“We conceded two soft tries, but I thought we were in control defensively,” said Robinson.
“Also we got behind the French defence several times but the French defence scrambled very well and Imanol Harinordoquy made two or three great tackles.
“However, the French have a very good scrum and are very canny about the way they go about their business. We have a number of positives to take out of this match and I was especially pleased by the performances of Sean Lamont and Johnnie Beattie.”
Ireland and England each opened the Six Nations on Saturday with an unconvincing victory.
Ireland showed only flashes of their best in a 29-11 win over Italy, while England took advantage of Wales’ indiscipline and survived a late scare before winning 30-17 at Twickenham.