6 Nations Rugby: France Beats Scotland 34-21
But that's just the end of the story.
Pre-game show was great -- no Telestrator! (Remember Mike Fratello, the Czar of the same scribbling wiggly lines, circles, and x's and o's during basketball games?) Rugby hosts Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, aided by NFL pro-Bowler Hugh Douglas, used the Sabbuteo -- non-electric electronic football. Full-color action figures in team jerseys glide across the scale-perfect pitch under human hands. Boom! Down goes a player for France! countered by a Scotsman down. Bam! Davies against Bennett! The Sabbuteo separates the men from the boys!
Fashion notes: Roger Bennett looked cute in his scrum cap, which was far neater, more chic, and compact than any Potterian sorting hat. Michael Davies sported his clan necktie since his Scotland jersey did not arrive in time, and showed off his grandmother's (auntie's?) tartan. American Hugh Douglas was decked out in an Argyle sweater, evoking that heather-on-the-hills feeling.
12 noon: The match began with each team's national anthem. "Flower of Scotland" (an unofficial anthem, used at sporting events) for the visitors, the Marseilles for France. Lots of lusty singing, especially on the part of the home team.
Even for a neophyte, rugby is easy to grasp, fast, light, and skillful. It is similar in many ways to American football, different in others. Scarcely any protective gear (except scrum hats for men in the front line). No padding, no crunching helmets, no face guards. A few mouth guards here and there, protecting a few teeth. Trys are touchdowns; conversions are extra points. Read all about it on any good rugby 101 page.
Here we go!
2:24 time elapsed: The aggressive and elegant French score a try (5 points) on a wide-open field. They get the additional 2-point conversion in record time. Play continues, fast and eager. (Point of reference for American football: touchdown is 6 points plus one point for kicked goal. Funny how both add up to 7.)
The scrum: For this newbie, the scrum is one of the best parts of rugby. Both sides hunker down, facing each other, to the cry: Crouch-Touch-Pause-Engage. The ball is thrown into the middle of this undulating man mass and the action revs up. If you haven't seen a scrum, I'd liken it to a many multi-legged spider moving in its own circle powered by legs that somehow wind up going in the same direction.
Play continues straight on, with no stopping to regroup. No strutting around, lining up, waiting for the glam QB to call the next play.
11:24: France scores a drop goal after a minor struggle for ball possession.
Scotland keeps losing the ball. Finally, 11:58 into the game, the Scots get the ball back near their own goal.
13:05: Scotland intercepts the ball. Wa-hoo!
13:34: Commentator says that Scotland is "plodding away." Hard to do in such a fast game!
14:22: France has the ball ... again.
15:03: Surprise! France gets the ball but Scotland defends.
Repeat after me: Crouch-Touch-Pause-Engage
17:23: Scotland penalized for Obstruction.
18:45: Scotland scores a Try! Finally!!! Score is 10-5, then Scotland converts for 2 more points. Hey, looking good at 20:04. Twenty minutes left to the half.
21:18: France's ball, but Scotland intercepts at 23:41.
25:40: Penalty against France: Front Row Standing Up. Egad.
28:19: Penalty Try - advantage France.
28:23: France scores try plus conversion. Score: 17-7 France.
33:23: Hold your breath -- Scotland's ball. Passing ... passing ... but not scoring.
34:37: France's ball ... again.
35:56: Scotland's ball; France all over them
36.35: Loose ball! AND France gets it.
Back and forth as half ends, still 17-7. The flower of Scotland still has a chance.
Second half. Enthusiasm runs high, both sides. Some cute little poulet hats in the stands. Wonder what that's all about?
Here we go!
42:17: Scotland gets the ball to the 10-meter line. Gorgeous Richie Gray is down with hamstring/groin/something pull, but up he gets in record time.
43:22: Too bad, Richie. France has the ball. No stopping them. Scotland gets a penalty. France inches closer to the goal line. Scotland gets another penalty for Holding On.
"Wave after wave of a French attack." Couldn't have put it better moi meme.
53:56: Scotland gets the ball again. Then loses it.
54:18: France scores a try on a wide-open field! Gets the conversion
WHERE WERE THE SCOTS DEFENDERS?
60:47: Scotland scores a try plus conversion. Score is 24-14. Twenty minutes left.
67:11: Scotland has the ball.
68:05: France scores a try with conversion. Score is now 31-14 on a wide-open field for France.
"Little mistakes ... severely punished" says the commentator about Scotland. Morality tale in progress.
Help is on the way!
75:41: Sean Lamont scores a try plus conversion. Score now 31-21, France. Still time???
79:10: France scores. Again. 34-21. Scotland finishes well. France finishes better. Scotland sings les bleues.
Not to worry. This is not yet elimination play. We're still in the round robin phase. For all the games, check out BBC America online.
Good night to all!