Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend savoured the “outstanding” kicking of Greig Laidlaw as the former skipper struck 22 points with his boot to reignite his side’s Six Nations campaign.
Laidlaw kicked six second-half penalties as Scotland recovered from deficits of 10-0 and 20-14 to go some way to easing the pain from their harrowing 34-7 defeat to Wales in Cardiff during the opening round of championship fixtures.
France wing Teddy Thomas dotted down twice, exchanging tries with Sean Maitland and Huw Jones, before Laidlaw, making his first Test start in Scottish colours for nearly a year, nervelessly took centre stage.
The 32-year-old had been switched to No10 in place of the misfiring Finn Russell for the final quarter as replacement Ali Price came on at scrum-half, a move for which Townsend afforded himself a pat on the back.
“We didn’t want to take Greig off because his goal kicking was outstanding,” said Townsend.
“He’s a very good No10, so he jogged through a few plays in the car park on Sunday morning as preparation. We needed to keep going at the French but wanted to keep Greig on the field, keep leading and kicking well.”
A fifth consecutive Six Nations home win for Scotland lifted them above Italy and France in the championship table and provided a much-needed boost prior to their tussle with Eddie Jones’s England at Murrayfield on 24 February.
“To come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard would have been very devastating,” added Townsend. “But the players put in a huge effort and ground out that win, especially in the last 20 minutes when we did enough to get ahead and stay ahead.”
Skipper John Barclay insisted relief was the greatest emotion in the Scotland dressing room. He said: “You would think we’d be bouncing, but there’s still a hangover from last week, so everyone is relieved.
“We haven’t become a dreadful team just because of the Wales game but we’re delighted for the fans who put all that faith in us. That’s for them.”
Laidlaw’s fourth penalty levelled proceedings at 26-26, after which Townsend switched the Clermont Auvergne back to fly-half. France’s Baptiste Serin was then caught offside as Scotland took the lead, which they did not relinquish, for the first time in a pulsating clash.