Rugby World Cup: Scotland denied at the death by Wales

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Megan Gaffney
Megan Gaffney scored two second-half tries as a Scotland fightback fell just short against Wales. Image: Fiona Goodall -World Rugby via Getty Images.

Wales 18

Scotland 15


SCOTLAND face the steepest of uphill battles to reach the last eight of the Rugby World Cup after losing their opening Pool A game in the last kick of the match this morning. Bryan Easson’s side appeared to have done enough to claim a draw after a second-half fightback saw them close from 15-5 down to 15-15, but a Keira Bevan penalty four minutes into stoppage time gave Wales the win.

Scotland could have been out of sight by that time, but Helen Nelson missed all five of her kicks at goal – three conversion attempts and two penalties. By contrast, Elinor Snowsill scored two out of three, while replacement Bevan had just that one, successful attempt.

Scotland’s points came from a Lana Skeldon try in the first half and two by Megan Gaffney in the second – the last being in the final minute of the 80. Wales only scored two tries, and they had two players yellow-carded in the second half, but they deserved to win the game at Whangarei’s Northland Events Centre. Not only did they get off to a far better start, they played with more confidence throughout – a quality that was above all in evidence when, after Gaffney’s try had levelled the score, they took the restart and set off on a multi-phase drive which ended in the Bevan score.

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“I am heartbroken at the minute,” Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm said after the match. “The way we fought back into the game shows the character that we have within this team.

“We are so passionate about performing for our country and it just shows the effect of not taking points when we had pressure earlier in the game. We needed to start better, but I have no doubt with the girls that I have got in my squad that they pick themselves up tomorrow and we’ll come into training and give it our absolute all to try and get a result next week.”

With four points in the bag, Wales may need no more than a couple of losing points in their remaining two games – against New Zealand then Australia – to ensure being at least one of the two third-placed teams who will go through from the three pools to the last eight. With only a solitary losing bonus, Scotland realistically now need to beat the Australians on Saturday to keep their slim qualification hopes alive.

And if they are to get that result, they will have to start far more smartly than they did here. In the first quarter nothing went right for them, while nearly everything did for Wales. After pressing straight from kick-off, the Welsh sent their first penalty to touch deep inside the Scots 22, and when the maul was collapsed, a second award went the same way.

The maul was well defended on the line at first, but eventually blindside flanker Alisha Butchers squeezed through the smallest of gaps to touch down and open the scoring. Snowsill converted.

Scotland were brieflly on the attack after that, but then a good midfield break by Meg Webb ended in the award of another Welsh penalty. Snowsill was on target again to stretch her team’s lead to 10-0.

With quarter of an hour played, Scotland at last got good position in the opposition half, but when they were awarded a penalty they sent it to touch only to lose the lineout. A minute later Nelson opted to go for goal from another penalty, but missed.

A water break midway through the half appeared to give Scotland time to compose themselves, and they began to put pressure on the Welsh. One drive from a penalty to touch ended when Christine Belisle was held, but we went back for another penalty, which was also sent to touch. This time the driven maul from the lineout had more impetus, and Skeldon was able to finish off with good support from Belisle and Jade Konkel-Roberts.

Nelson missed the conversion attempt, but a 10-5 deficit was not a bad position to be in given Wales’ early domination. That became 15-5, however, when Kayleigh Powell finished off on the overlap after a good offload from a tackle.

Snowsill was off target this time, but so was Nelson minutes later with a penalty from in front of the posts. It made sense to go for goal given the position of the award, but the failure was a significant blow to a Scotland side who still seemed to be well short of confidence.


A try-saving tackle by Caity Mattinson on Jasmine Joyce stopped matters getting worse for Scotland in the early stages of the second half, then a Welsh drive from a lineout maul was then held up on the line by an excellent defensive effort.

The Scots scrum began to become dominant after that, and the Welsh penalty count began to rise. Konkel-Roberts was held up on the line just before another water break on the hour mark, then her team’s momentum was halted again when replacement Eilidh Sinclair needed lengthy on-field treatment for an arm injury.

Eventually, the referee decided she had had enough of Welsh indiscipline, and after their 15th penalty of the match she sent Cara Hope to the sinbin. Scotland took advantage immediately, with Gaffney finishing off in the left corner after Konkel-Roberts had picked up from a scrum.

Wales had done nothing in attack since the early minutes of the half, but that changed when Butchers ghosted past Rachel Malcolm and headed for the line. Lisa Thomson brought her down inside the five-metre line, however, and Scotland were soon back on the offensive.

No sooner was Hope out of the bin and back on the field than Joyce was sent into it for a deliberate knock-on. Scotland again used the extra player well, and drew level when, after a lineout maul had been held on the right, they again switched play to the left for Gaffney to finish off.

Nelson’s conversion would have put her team in front for the first time in the contest with just 20 seconds on the clock, but her kick again went wide. That provided one last boost to Welsh confidence, and their assertiveness was awarded a few minutes later when Bevan got that last-gasp winner. 

Teams –

Wales: K Powell; J Joyce, M Webb, H Jones (captain), L Neumann (C Thomas 65); E Snowsill (R Wilkins 76), F Lewis (K Bevan 52); C Hope, C Phillips (K Jones 63), D Rose (C Hale 55), N John, G Evans (S Lillicrap 55), A Butchers (B Lewis 69), A Callender, S Harries. 

Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, C Mattinson; M Wright (L Bartlett 64), L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, S Bonar, R Malcolm (captain), L McMillan (E Sinclair 47, J Rettie 63), Konkel-Roberts. 

Referee: C Munarini (Italy).

Scorers –

Wales: Tries: Butchers, Powell. Con: Snowsill. Pens: Snowsill, Bevan.

Scotland: Tries: Skeldon, Gaffney 2.

Scoring sequence (Wales first): 5-0; 7-0; 10-0; 10-5; 15-5 (h-t) 15-10; 15-15; 18-15.

Yellow cards –

Wales: Hope 65, Joyce 77.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1363 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. We do not have a monopoly of having passion every player has passion however when you play at elite level you would expect a high % of competency missing all they points through missing kicks at goal is just not acceptable. And please come up with something better that passion and character.

  2. 5 kicks missed .at this level it shouldn’t happen
    Her bottle went .surely coaches could see that and changed the kicker .

  3. Agree with both above, very frustrating, we are our own worst enemy. Very first KO, do we not have a gameplan for it? Aimlessly kick it up the middle, straight away hand initiative and field position to Wales who eventually score. Inability to deal with KO’s has haunted national teams( Male and female)for years, but we never seem to learn/ do anything about it.

  4. Frustrating loss by 3 tries vs 2…..

    Too late now, but why, oh why, come to tournament such as this without a proven goal-kicker (and a suitable barn door for practice)? Elementary deficiency.

  5. It’s bizarre how reluctant Bryan Easson is to use his bench – game after game changes only seem to be made when injury requires it. Could fresher legs and minds made a difference during those final, fatal phases of play?

  6. Wales played the weak referee perfectly, an undeserved victory, but Scotland had enough chances to win it 😢🏉


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