Les Bleus edge out brave Scots
Valiant Scotland remain in search of a first win of the 2012 RBS 6 Nations after Rugby World Cup finalists France earned a narrow 23-17 victory at Murrayfield.
Stuart Hogg and Lee Jones scored their first Test tries, Greig Laidlaw kicked five points and Duncan Weir two, but France responded with tries from Wesley Fofana and Maxime Medard, while Morgan Parra kicked two conversions and two penalties.
Lionel Beauxis added a drop goal to make sure of victory and a fifth successive defeat for Scotland, who lost wing Rory Lamont to an apparently serious knee injury, scrum-half Mike Blair to a dead leg and fly-half Laidlaw to a head knock.
Those were the mitigating factors in the defeat but it does not hide the fact that unless victory in Dublin is claimed in two weeks' time, Scotland could be facing a Wooden Spoon decider in Italy on the final day of the championship.
Hogg had been denied a try on debut in the 27-13 loss to Wales but there was no doubt about his effort in the corner after eight minutes. Laidlaw, who missed an early penalty, switched the play, and found Jones, who sent over Hogg.
Laidlaw converted and he then kicked the hosts into a 10-0 lead in the 26th minute after France transgressed following a Ross Ford burst. But moments later, Francois Trinh-Duc broke through an attempted tackle from opposite number Laidlaw and the ball was recycled quickly, with Vincent Clerc's sleight of hand finding Fofana, who evaded three would-be tacklers to finish clinically.
Parra converted and then levelled the scores after Scotland pulled down a maul and the scrum-half put France in front for the first time early in the second half.
John Barclay was the catalyst for Scotland reclaiming the lead. The flanker made a sensational tackle and steal to feed Nick De Luca, who fed fellow replacement Richie Vernon. Vernon drew the defender and found Jones to touch down and Weir converted.
The four-point advantage was short-lived as France wing Julien Malzieu trampled over Jones and fed Medard to score. Parra converted for a three-point lead with 20 minutes left.
Thierry Dusautoir led the way into the Scotland 22 and France teed-up Beauxis for a successful drop-goal which stretched the lead to six points. Beauxis dragged a late penalty wide, but France celebrated a second win of the tournament.