A disastrous opening ten minutes proved too hard to recover for Scotland in Paris as France ended their Grand Slam dreams.
Grant Gilchrist was sent off after just seven minutes as the hosts flew out the traps to score two early tries and give the Scots an uphill battle they could not, despite a spirited effort, overcome.
Mohamed Haouas also saw red in the first half as the majority of the game was played 14 v 14.
Scotland got themselves to within a try of winning the match but it was France who came away with a bonus point win to get their Six Nations title defence back on track.
France wasted no time in getting to work, making a series of huge carries that knocked Scotland backwards until the gap appeared for Romain Ntamack to cross and score. Thomas Ramos added the extras.
Immediately from the re-start the Scots met with disaster as Gilchrist struck the jaw of Anthony Jelonsch with his shoulder and was red carded after seven minutes.
France then added another try through Ethan Dumortier who scored in the left corner.
Incredibly both teams were then down to 14 men as Haouas was sent off for a dangerous clear out at a ruck inside France’s five metre line.
Zander Fagerson came close to putting Scotland on the scoreboard but just lost control of the ball as he stretched to touch down.
Then France made the visitors pay when Ramos intercepted a flat Finn Russell pass to race clear 60 metres and score.
Scotland, to their credit, remained calm and went on to exert sustained pressure on the French defence. Huw Jones finally crossed to score after 25 minutes to reduce the deficit to 19-7.
The men in dark blue maintained that composure after the break and wore down the French with some effective mauling. In the 48th minute the set piece laid the foundation for another Jones try, and Russell’s conversion made it 22-14.
The home side then enjoyed their first period of pressure of the second half and added three points from the boot of Ramos in the 57th minute.
Back came the Scots, with a series of excellent scrums on the France five metre line which finally set up Russell to score a try of his own. He converted to reduce the lead to four points.
It looked like the Scots might get a chance to complete an incredible comeback but they lost their own lineout ball at the halfway line and France grasped the momentum shift with both hands.
Gael Fickou added a final try to deny the Scots a losing bonus point and severely dent their Six Nations title hopes.
Gregor Townsend’s men return to Murrayfield for the final two matches of the championship, with world number one team Ireland next up in two weeks’ time.
Scotland Player Ratings
Stuart Hogg 7 – Was called on to defend as well as mount attacks and acquitted himself well. Tested the France backline with intelligent kick-and-chase.
Kyle Steyn 7 – Put in a huge shift, mainly in defence, as he stood up the physical French.
Huw Jones 9 – Outstanding finishes and his arcing running had France scrambling to contain.
Sione Tuipulotu 8 – Has developed into a leader on the field and become a vital man in midfield.
Duhan van der Merwe 6 – Quieter day at the office and was bundled into touch on his best chance to score.
Finn Russell 7 – Intelligent kicking kept the opposing defence turning and came close to orchestrating a comeback.
Ben White 7 – Kept the attack on script, made some useful snipes and kicks were largely on point.
Pierre Schoeman 7 – His usual all action self in the loose, never afraid to test the opposition pack with his carries.
George Turner 8 – Made some good, hard yards with the ball in hand and proved a handful.
Zander Fagerson 7 – Unlucky not to score in the first half and put his body on the line.
Richie Gray 7 – Stood tall after the early blow of his second row partner’s sending off.
Grant Gilchrist 1 – Red carded after just seven minutes.
Jamie Ritchie 7 – A tough day at the office against a ferocious French pack but never shirked the challenge.
Hamish Watson 3 – Withdrawn early as Scotland introduced a second lock in Gilchrist’s absence.
Matt Fagerson 7 – Solid performer as always, using his slippery footwork to good effect against the bruising France pack.
Replacements 7 – Front row change set the base for the third try. Jonny Gray had a busy day after Gilchrist’s red.
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