An outrageous pass through his legs by French flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc set up the key try for the defending Six Nations champions in a 34-21 win over Scotland on Saturday.
Last year’s Grand Slam winners touched down early through Maxime Medard and were always ahead despite tries from Alastair Kellock, Kelly Brown and Sean Lamont for the Scots.
The piece de resistance for France came when Trinh-Duc picked out Imanol Harinordoquy with a stunning bit of skill to allow the number eight to run in unchallenged.
France, who also managed a penalty try and a try from Damien Traille, will visit Ireland next Sunday in reasonably confident mood after they were thrashed by Australia in November.
Scotland have a terrible record against France, with their last win coming in 2006, but the home side’s confidence coming into the match was also brittle following the 59-16 mauling by Australia in their last match in Paris.
However, the home side made a flying start in the third minute with winger Medard scoring the first try thanks to Aurelien Rougerie’s superb grubber kick after Scotland had lost the ball.
Morgan Parra completed a confident conversion and the scrumhalf then set up Trinh-Duc for a drop goal before Scotland fought their way back into the game.
The Scots, wearing their traditional dark blue while the hosts wore white, powered towards the line and a neat dummy from Kellock allowed him to wriggle over the line.
Flyhalf Dan Parks had made a shaky start but he popped over the conversion to re-energise the Scots supporters.
Marc Lievremont’s team always looked the more dangerous with several drives of expansive rugby which thrilled the packed Stade de France.
A series of scrums held up near the line led to France getting a penalty try and Parra kicked the extra points again to send his side into the break 17-7 in front.
Early in the second half, Parra missed the posts in a game refreshingly free of penalty kicks before Harinordoquy’s try. The superb score and conversion prompted a rousing rendition of the Marseillaise from the crowd but they were soon silenced when Scotland number eight Brown muscled his way over the line.
Any French jitters were calmed when another flowing move sent Traille crashing over with the Scottish defence nowhere and Lamont’s late try made no difference to the result.
“There was a lot of rhythm and intensity. It wasn’t easy,” Lievremont told a news conference.
“People said there was a lot to fear from this Scotland side and they were right.
“I’m very happy with the performance of the backs. It was far from the perfect match but I like the solidarity shown during the game. That was pleasing.”
Scotland coach Andy Robinson said he was delighted with his team’s attitude.
“But we hate losing Test matches,” he said. “We will have to rethink about the way we played after France scored four tries from our turnovers. If we can show composure on the ball and still play with the same attitude, I think we can be a good side.”