Scotland knew they would probably never get as good an opportunity to beat France than the one which presented itself on Sunday afternoon, and so it proved.It had been ten long years since Sean Lamont’s try-double helped Frank Hadden’s team to a narrow win in February 2006, and despite some close calls in recent years, there was quiet confidence that Vern Cotter’s men could finally end the wait this time around.Important victoryVern Cotter’s men won relatively comfortable in the end, but the margin of victory really could have been a lot closer had the French landed their early kicks at goal. Maxime Machenaud eventually took over the kicking duties from the hapless Francois Trinh-Duc, but even the influential Racing 92 scrum-half could not claw back the lead that Laidlaw’s men had accumulated. Despite going behind after only four minutes to a well-worked try from hooker Guilhem Guirado, Scotland retained their game plan and composure and struck back with two penalties from Laidlaw and then extended their lead after a fine try from man of the match Stuart Hogg after some excellent play from John Hardie and Peter Horne, who had replaced Finn Russell at stand-off after only a few minutes.Scotland’s Duncan Taylor with the try. SNS The capacity crowd at Murrayfield could scarcely believe what happened shortly after when, instead of opting to clear their lines from a penalty in their own 22, centre Duncan Taylor tapped to himself and ran nearly half the length of the field to touch down in the corner. Although Laidlaw missed the conversion, the crowd sensed that this was to be Scotland’s afternoon.France hit back through centre Gael Fickou however, and the deficit was reduced to a mere six points at the interval.Stuart Hogg was voted man of the match against France. SNS Two Scotland tries in a Six Nations match at Murrayfield are a rarity, but the third try of the afternoon is the one that will be remembered for years to come by all who witnessed it. Referee Glen Jackson had awarded the home side a penalty which was duly kicked to the corner, and the Scots began their first assault of the second half on the French line. Richie Gray went close before the ball was spun wide as fullback Hogg jumped up and effortlessly flicked the ball behind him to find winger Tim Visser who raced over in the corner. The home crowd roared and the French were stunned.No more errorsAgainst champions England last month Scotland made multiple errors and lost. At Murrayfield they made only three throughout the entire match, and it goes to show that if you cut out the basic mistakes at international level, opportunities come and Vern Cotter’s side certainly took theirs today in what was surely one of the best games of the tournament.France did rally towards the end and probably should have had a third of their own, but Sebastien Bezy’s pass to Fickou was ruled to be forward and Scotland cleared their lines and held on for their first win over France in a decade and their first back-to-back wins since 2013.Cotter relievedThe victory was also Vern Cotter’s first home win in the tournament and the reserved Kiwi let a wry smile creep onto his face after the final whistle.He said: “That was a tough game. We lost our play-maker, Finn Russell, early but kept our shape and built well from an early lead.“Our set-piece was good and they showed character. They are good ingredients if you want to get somewhere in the game,” he continued, looking ahead to next Saturday’s clash with an Irish side in transition.Greig Laidlaw salutes the fans. SNS Captain Laidlaw was also a relieved man at full time, and paid tribute to the long-suffering home supporters with his appraisal of events at full time.“This was the reason we pull on the jersey”, the scrum-half said. “It wasn’t about individuals and we were as one with the crowd here at Murrayfield,” he continued.Turning point for ScotlandSunday’s win felt like a turning point in Scottish rugby. Yes, there had been historic wins over the likes of England in France in the last ten years, but they felt more like one-offs and were often followed up by a deflating loss to Italy or Ireland. The importance of this win over a physically imposing French side has confirmed what many of us have believed for some time now; that all it would take would be a single victory to set this young and exciting team on their way.The likes of Jonny Gray, Alex Dunbar, WP Nel, Josh Strauss and Tommy Seymour had not experienced a home Six Nations win before Sunday, but these are to be the key players that will help take Scotland towards the next World Cup in Japan in 2019 and now have momentum and confidence on their side.Destination DublinNext weekend’s trip to Dublin should not hold any fear for this side and despite Ireland’s emphatic 50-point victory over a poor Italy side on Saturday.Joe Schmidt’s side is a team in transition, missing talismen like Paul O’Connell who retired after the world cup, and Peter O’Mahoney, among others.A third win next Saturday night at the Aviva Stadium would not only mark the first time in a decade that Scotland has won three Six Nations matches, but would finally confirm that this is indeed a Scotland team that can achieve something special in the coming years.More to comeA summer tour of ever-improving Japan awaits Cotter’s team before winnable autumn clashes with Australia, Argentina and Georgia.Suddenly, what looked like being yet another season of doom and gloom for Scottish rugby, now holds so much promise.
Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player of his generation, announced on Sunday he will retire after the 2015-16 National Basketball Association season.Bryant, who is struggling through the worst season of his illustrious 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, said in a piece posted on the Players’ Tribune website that “I’m ready to let [basketball] go.”The decision was not totally unexpected as the 37-year-old Lakers guard has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons and had recently said he was considering retirement.”I can’t love you obsessively for much longer. This season is all I have left to give,” wrote Bryant. “My heart can take the pounding, my mind can handle the grind, but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”Bryant, a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer who is third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, has a career-worst 31.5 shooting percentage through his first 12 games of the season on a Lakers team that has the second worst record in the league.Named Kobe by his parents after they spotted the popular Japanese cut of beef on a restaurant menu shortly before his birth, Bryant is now a five-times NBA champion having won titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.He was drafted out of high school with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets but was traded shortly after the Lakers for Serbian Vlade Divac.He has appeared in 17 All-Star games, was named the Most Valuable Player for the 2007-08 regular season and landed MVP honors in the 2009 and 2010 Finals when he led the Lakers to consecutive championships.advertisementBryant has also won gold medals with the U.S. basketball team at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.During his career, Bryant made a habit of draining game-winning shots despite being double or triple-teamed by opponents and has established a reputation for being one of the best closers in the NBA.”I’m ready to let you go” In his essay, Bryant talked about being a boy who would use his father’s rolled-up socks to shoot imaginary game-winning shots at the Great Western Forum, where the Lakers played from 1967 to 1999.(here)”I’m ready to let you go,” wrote Bryant, who trails only Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone on the NBA’s scoring list.”So we both can savor every moment we have left together. The good and the bad. We have given each other all that we have.”Bryant was sidelined nearly eight months in 2013 with a torn Achilles’ tendon, then played just six games during the 2013-14 season because of a severe knee injury.Last season, he played 35 games but increasingly suffered soreness in his knees, feet and back, prompting coach Byron Scott to cut back significantly on Bryant’s playing time going forward while altering his on-court role.