Scotland’s search for a first win in Paris since 1999 goes on after France emerged victorious from a tense Six Nations contest at the Stade de France.
Stuart Hogg’s 15th Test try gave the Scots an early lead but Gael Fickou’s try put France 13-5 clear before two Finn Russell penalties made it 13-11.
Tim Swinson’s try regained the lead for the injury-hit visitors before Camille Lopez’s third penalty tied it at 16-16.
Remi Lamerat had a try ruled out before two late Lopez kicks sealed victory.
Scotland salvaged a bonus point despite suffering a host of injuries, with captain Greig Laidlaw, flanker John Barclay, his replacement John Hardie and hooker Fraser Brown all trooping off.
They must now regroup for the visit of Wales on 25 February (14:25 GMT), while France head to Dublin to face Ireland on the same day (16:50 GMT).
This was a surreal Test, a day when Scotland’s scrum was routinely demolished – it gave France six penalties and a free-kick – and when the visitors lost one captain, Laidlaw, to injury, lost his deputy, Barclay, then lost Barclay’s replacement Hardie.
The Scots dropped like flies and yet they hung on gamely. They lived off scraps and yet were still banging away at the death hoping against hope for an opening that never came.
It all began with a Lopez penalty quickly cancelled out by a Hogg try when Huw Jones drew in Lopez and off-loaded to the full-back, who fixed Baptiste Serin and went over in the corner. Laidlaw’s conversion hit the crossbar and stayed out.
Lopez put the French back in the lead at the end of the first quarter and it was then that Laidlaw went off, a cruel blow for Scotland, a setback that was only added to when Fickou scored on the half-hour.
It had been coming. France had threatened and had wasted some opportunities beforehand, but when the Toulouse centre went in under Hogg’s tackle there was no stopping him.
The conversion was added and the gap stretched to eight points. Credit Scotland. Tommy Seymour won the restart and the Scots forced a penalty, which Russell put over.
Then he banged over another one just before the break. Quite how they were only two points down was a mystery.
The second injury blow had landed by then, the stand-in captain, Barclay, exiting with a head knock.
Hardie came on and went off again within minutes of the second half beginning. Another head knock. Poor Hardie. The man has suffered badly with concussions in his career.
Remarkably, Scotland brushed off that upset and hit the front again a few minutes later. A brilliant offload from Russell released the razor-sharp Seymour up the right touchline, chipping and chasing and getting the benefit of a kindly bounce in his tussle with Scott Spedding.
Seymour found Swinson steaming downfield on his lonesome and no sooner had he come on the field for Hardie, he scored.
Even more remarkably, Russell missed the conversion from almost touching distance of the posts. The kicking tee took too long to reach him and when it did he lost composure, with someone – believed to be Scotland resource coach Nathan Hines – urging him to ‘Take it, take it’.
The ball was placed unsteadily on its mark, then flopped over as Russell was about to kick it. His effort had a dead duck quality, going under the posts instead of over.
Scotland had precious little ball after that. The French took control and those scrum horrors carried on. The visitors were clinging on from a long way out.
Lopez made it 16-16 with the boot and as Scotland became ragged under pressure, and started making some poor decisions, the fly-half steered them home. Two more penalties – in the 71st and 76th minutes – gave France their win.
On a monstrously testing day, Scotland contented themselves with a losing bonus point. In the circumstances, it was an achievement.
France: 15-Scott Spedding; 14-Noa Nakaitaci, 13-Remi Lamerat, 12-Gael Fickou, 11-Virimi Vakatawa; 10-Camille Lopez, 9-Baptiste Serin; 1-Cyril Baille, 2-Guilhem Guirado (captain), 3-Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 5-Yoann Maestri, 6-Loann Goujon, 7-Kevin Gourdon, 8-Louis Picamoles,
Replacements: 16-Christopher Tolofua (for Guirado, 79), 17-Rabah Slimani (for Atonio, 46) 18-Xavier Chiocci (for Baille, 59), 19-Julian Le Devedec (for Maestri, 59), 20-Damien Chouly (for Goujon, 60), 21-Maxime Machenaud (for Serin, 56), 22-Jean-Marc Doussain, 23-Yoann Huget (for Vakatawa, 53)
Scotland: 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Sean Maitland, 13-Huw Jones, 12-Alex Dunbar, 11-Tommy Seymour, 10-Finn Russell, 9-Greig Laidlaw (captain); 1-Allan Dell, 2-Fraser Brown, 3-Zander Fagerson, 4-Richie Gray, 5-Jonny Gray, 6-John Barclay, 7- Hamish Watson, 8-Josh Strauss.
Replacements: 16-Ross Ford (for Brown, 66), 17-Gordon Reid (for Dell, 44), 18-Simon Berghan (for Fagerson, 59), 19-Tim Swinson (for Hardie, 41), 20-John Hardie (for Barclay, 37), 21-Alistair Price (for Laidlaw, 25), 22-Duncan Weir (for Russell, 75), 23-Mark Bennett (for Dunbar, 57-61).
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Referee: Jaco Peyper (RSA)
Touch judges: John Lacey (IRE) Luke Pearce (ENG)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRE)