10 punch the air Scottish rugby moments in 2021 – number 3

Moving into the top 3 in this round up of special moments in another remarkable, bizarre and occasionally infuriating year for Scottish rugby.

(Missed part 1 with the run down from 10 to 4? Check it out here.)

3. Finishing the Six Nations in style

France v Scotland in the Six Nations was a match littered with extraordinary moments. Chris Harris melting Virimi Vakatawa in the Scottish 22. Dave Cherry’s ping pong try. Damian Penaud’s chip and chase to cap an end to end score. Finn Russell copping the first ever red card of his career.

There was no question though that the instant that sent every Scotland fan into ecstasy was when Duhan van der Merwe crashed over on the left wing with time expired to end the dark blues’ 22-year wait for a victory in Paris.

On an evening when the Scots put on one of their best-ever showings at the Stade de France the match had swung this way and that. The lead had changed five times in the first 66 minutes with the scoreboard 23-20 in the home side’s favour and both sides down to 14 men as the clock ticked into the red.

It all started with Brice Dulin deciding to keep the ball in rather than hoof it out for the win. From there on though it was all Scotland. Once Chris Harris had chased down a lost cause and Hamish Watson had pressured the French into a breakdown penalty, Stuart Hogg’s side went to touch, nailed the lineout and then ground their way over the line through 23 phases of brutal (and error-free) rugby.

13 of the 14 Scots on the pitch carried the ball as their side probed over and over again for a gap in the French defence. For 2 minutes and 45 seconds, the visitors had to protect the ball at all costs with the knowledge that there would be no second chances. The Scottish players combined for 47 ruck entries as they put their bodies on the line for one last opportunity to win the game.

On phase 21 France sniffed a chance to counter ruck and win possession. It was the closest they came to a turnover. Both sides committed extra numbers in a desperate attempt to control the ball, leading to a huge pile of bodies on the goal line. Chris Harris gave everything he had to stop the French onslaught. Zander Fagerson, Dave Cherry and Hamish Watson charged in to save the Scots.

Once the dark blues had managed to win the ball back by the skin of their teeth from that breakdown, all it took was one more powerful carry by Ryan Wilson (his third of the set) and the space was there for Adam Hastings to float the ball off his right hand to Duhan van der Merwe.

The big winger still had work to do and no Scotland fan would have been taking anything for granted. Joy unbounded arrived the moment van der Merwe touched down after stepping inside Damian Penaud. Stuart Hogg, leaping into the air, with his lovely new hair flapping majestically, was all of us at home. Sofas were abandoned. Drinks were spilt. Sleeping children were awoken by the clamour of temporarily delirious parents. It was a special moment.

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