14-man France loses Grand Slam bid after defeat in Scotland

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Another red card could cost France another major rugby trophy after its 14-man team lost its unbeaten run in the Six Nations against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

France was beaten 28-17, ending its Grand Slam hopes.

Its first defeat in four rounds also dropped France to second in the standings, below England on points difference. That means England's and Ireland's matches against Italy, both postponed by the new coronavirus outbreak, could yet have a bearing on who is crowned champion, sometime this year.

This match turned when tighthead prop Mohamed Haouas was sent off in the 37th minute for punching Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie.

France led 7-6 at the time, but the resulting penalty slotted by Scotland lost France the lead which it never got back.

Tries to winger Sean Maitland just before and just after halftime put Scotland in control.

The young French fought valiantly with 14 men but the effort drained them.

The red card was deja vu for France which, only last October, was leading Wales in their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in Japan until Sebastien Vahaamahina was sent off for punching. France lost and went home with nothing.

That's on the cards again.

France has to beat Ireland in Paris next Saturday to keep alive its first championship chance in 10 years, then see how England replies.

The Haouas red card was symptomatic of a France side that was decidedly off even before kickoff. In the warmup, reserve hooker Camille Chat limped off and had to be replaced.

Romain Ntamack missed a long-range penalty, then dropped a punt and walked off with a head knock in the eighth minute.

Meanwhile, flanker Francois Cros was sin-binned for a tip tackle, while on his knees, of lock Grant Gilchrist, though it appeared teammate Paul Willemse was more at fault.

Scotland could add only three points while Clos was off, but France was struggling for the snappy cohesion that marked its wins over England, Italy, and Wales.

Passes off the rucks, even from star scrumhalf Antoine Dupont, were sloppy, and the scrum was also a liability. Haouas was having trouble holding up his tighthead side against Rory Sutherland.

Out of nowhere, France scored a great try. Dupont released Gael Fickou down the left touchline, and was set to throw a long pass until he spotted right wing Damian Penaud alone and cross-kicked for a catch and score in the right corner.

Then Scotland laid siege to the France tryline, which France was appearing to repel. But a melee erupted, Ritchie ran in from a long way, and Haouas punched him in the jaw, leaving referee Paul Williams no choice but to send him off.

Hastings, giving his best performance in the absence of the exiled Finn Russell, kicked the penalty to give Scotland back the lead at 9-7 and, after the restart, he made a 30-meter break into the French 22. Stuart Hogg and Sam Johnson engineered a try for Maitland and a 14-7 lead into halftime.

Maitland had his second try soon after the break. Hogg counterattacked from halfway, scrumhalf Ali Price was stopped in front of the posts, and Hastings put Maitland into the right corner again.

After a sunny start to the match, the rain returned, giving France's ambitions another obstacle. Luck wasn't on its side either.

A throw-in by Scotland replacement hooker Stuart McInally was stolen at the front, but the tap down bounced away from Dupont, and McInally regathered from 20 meters out and scored.

Scotland tried hard for the bonus-point fourth try, but France, despite its tired appearance, had the last say. Thomas Ramos launched a counterattack from deep and captain Charles Ollivon bagged his fourth try of the championship.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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