Vern Cotter's Scotland put dismal decade behind them emphatically

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Following three years of struggle, Murrayfield finally played host to a home Six Nations victory. Scotland fans had arrived at the stadium with a sense of optimism but departed with a genuine belief that Vern Cotter's men might just have turned a corner.

It was not difficult to find a confident Scot on Corstorphine Road prior to France's visit, buoyed as they were by a first Six Nations victory in 10 attempts in Rome last time out. Yet few could have imagined the manner in which Scotland would put France to the sword, especially given they had not so much as defeated the French in a decade, home or away.

Questions were asked of Scotland -- not least when losing their fly-half and playmaker, Finn Russell, who was injured as the Scots conceded the first try of the match after only four minutes -- but Cotter's men came up with answers, time and again.

"I'm really happy for the players. It wasn't easy but they put the effort in," Cotter said afterwards. "There's a lot of energy out there on the park and a lot of that came from the supporters as well. It was good to win a match in front of our home fans. Ten years is a long time."

Indeed it is, but on the evidence of Sunday afternoon those supporters may not be required to wait quite as long for another. Scotland displayed a character in victory that has rarely been seen in these parts since the days of Gavin Hastings and David Sole.

That a first home Six Nations win since 2013 ensured that England were confirmed as tournament winners mattered not a jot. This is not a team that measures itself with such yardsticks. Instead, Cotter -- who confirmed Russell could yet return against Ireland next weekend should he complete concussion protocols -- is looking for more.

"I think we can improve," added the coach of a side that has taken a sizeable stride forward.

Having started the game brightly, and being camped in French territory for the first two minutes, conceding the opening try might have caused Scottish heads to drop.

That they steadied the ship and methodically set about building a half-time lead -- without a full-time fly-half, Peter Horne having replaced playmaker Russell -- speaks volumes for the character Cotter has instilled.

This is a Scotland team that might lose games, perhaps more than it wins, but it will not be beaten by much. It will not implode as sides of the last 10 years have done.

Scotland's new-found resilience was displayed throughout a match that could have ebbed away from them were they not on their mettle.

Given the amount of effort that had gone into wrestling control of the contest in the opening period, Gael Fickou's try on the stroke of half-time would have broken many teams.

Instead, Scotland returned for the second half and made sure they were the first team on the scoreboard. Stuart Hogg's long-range penalty was as necessary as it was nerve-jangling.

Speaking to fans prior to kick-off under the West Stand, Hogg had been described as "a class above". His man-of-the-match display highlighted as much and it was fitting that he scored Scotland's first try before getting the telling final touch for Tim Visser's crowning score.

"He stepped up when Finn had to come off [and] it's nice to get a penalty advantage and still try and score a try," Cotter said. "Stuart had a good game but I thought it was a team [performance]."

Special praise should also be reserved for Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw, who drew level with Sole's record of 25 caps as his country's skipper in impressive fashion.

It is easy to forget that just 12 months ago, Cotter was being urged to dispense with his captain for the younger Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. Scotland fans no longer call for the head of their "inspirational" leader.

"We want to finish strong next week. We don't want to just win two games, we want to win three games. We want to win two games away from home." Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw

Laidlaw was integral in hauling the hosts back into the contest at 5-0 down. It should have been a bigger deficit but the Gloucester man's calm approach, which can often seem laboured, transmitted to his teammates as Scotland clawed their way back into the match.

He ended the game with 11 points, but it was the six in the first half that gave his side the lead that were the most important.

And like his coach, Laidlaw is not finished. "We want to finish strong next week," he said. "We don't want to just win two games, we want to win three games. We want to win two games away from home."

With momentum behind them, you would not bet against them doing just that in Dublin next weekend.