STUART BATHGATE @ Scotstoun
SCOTLAND needed a much-improved performance after their dismal defeat by Italy at the start of the month, and they got it with an inspired display against Canada. Shade Munro’s team had a chance to level with a late penalty, and in that sense they were disappointed to end up empty-handed, but they can still take pride in many aspects of their game against opponents ranked fourth in the world.
The pack, frequently on the back foot against some of the best sides in the world, responded well after a slow start against the Canadians. Stirling County tighthead Megan Kennedy was immense in the loose as well as playing her part in the setpiece, while Jade Konkel showed massive reserves of energy despite having only recently returned after eight months out through injury. Konkel got one of Scotland’s four tries, and Canada also scored four, the difference being that all of the Canadians’ were converted, while the Scots were only on target with one, Helen Nelson having started the scoring with a penalty.
Canada, for whom this was the fourth and final match of a short UK tour, were ominously powerful at times, but understandably showed signs of fatigue as the contest wore on. After scoring the first two tries the visitors looked like they might run away with the game, but Scotland fought back well to regain the lead right on half-time, and competed tenaciously to the end.
Scotland have still only won once in 2018 – against Ireland in Donnybrook back in March – but at least now they have something to build on. They have one more match to play before the Six Nations, against Spain in January, when the aim will be to show that the 38-0 loss in Italy was a blip, and that this match was a truer reflection of where they are now as a squad.
Nelson’s second-minute penalty came after the visitors’ defence had strayed offside, but the lead did not last long. When a Canadian penalty two minutes later failed to find touch, Scotland made a mess of their exit. Regaining possession, Canada drove through their forwards, and Tyson Beukeboom touched down then Brianna Miller converted.
The superior power of the Canadian pack continued to press the Scots back, while the pace of left-winger Emily Samek also had them at full stretch. Mhairi Grieve’s box kicks relieved some of the pressure when Scotland did get the ball back, but it was clearly only a matter of time before Canada scored again, and they did so midway through the half when Tausani Levale finished off a close-range move. Miller was on target again with the conversion.
Scotland’s passing was crisper than it had been against Italy, but for a long time they had to exert themselves to the limit simply to get out of their own half. That changed towards the end of the half, however, when two well-worked tries took them into the lead.
Scots grab the lead
First, an excellent break through the middle produced an overlap on the far left for Abi Evans to score an unconverted try. Then, with the clock in the red, a penalty to touch set up good position. Megan Kennedy drove off the back of the lineout, and Jade Konkel finished it off, powering over close to the posts. Lisa Martin’s conversion gave Scotland a one-point lead at the break.
Nelson had to go off with a shoulder injury just before that score and was replaced by Annabel Sergeant. It was the second enforced change by Munro, who had already had to bring Siobhan McMillan on for Lisa Cockburn.
Canada coach Sandro Fiorino made three changes to his team at the break, and the renewed vigour with which they played as a result soon saw them regain the lead. A penalty well inside the Scots 22 was quickly taken, and although the first drive was held up, there was no stopping Beukeboom on the second phase. With Miller off, full-back Irene Patrinos took over the kicking duties and chipped over the extra two points.
Losing the lead did nothing to dispirit Scotland, and with Watsonians winger Bryony Nelson on for her debut in place of Lauren Harris, a Thomson try got them back to within a point after Konkel had driven right up to the line. But Martin was just off target with the conversion that would have put her team back in front, and Canada soon extended their lead when open-side Janna Slevinsky powered her way through the defence all too easily. Patrinos’ conversion made it an eight-point lead as the game entered its final quarter.
Wassell prompts late rally
Scotland needed the next score, and they got it within three minutes when Emma Wassell finished off a drive after Chloe Rollie had stretched the defence. Martin again missed the conversion.
After 75 minutes, a superb run by Rollie was stopped two metres short of the line by Patrinos and Alarie. Scotland recycled, but as Konkel crossed the line she knocked forward in the tackle by Cindy Nelles.
With three minutes to play, Scotland were awarded a penalty inside the Canadian 22. Thomson opted to go for goal in search of the points that would have drawn the game, but her miskicked attempt went low and wide. It was an anticlimactic end to a match from which Munro’s team nonetheless emerged with renewed optimism.
Scotland: C Rollie; L Harris, L Thomson, H Nelson, A Evans; L Martin, M Grieve; L Cockburn, L Skeldon, M Kennedy, E Wassell, N Howat, S Cattigan, R McLachlan, J Konkel. Subs: J Rettie, S McMillan, M Forsyth, L Winter, L McMillan, J Maxwell, B Nelson, A Sergeant.
Canada: I Patrinos; A Corrigan, A Holly, T Levale, E Samek; A Tessier, B Miller; B Kassil, L Russell, O DeMerchant, N Fuamba, T Beukeboom, S Svoboda, J Slevinsky, C Nelles. Subs: G Boag, M Laliberte, D Menin, A DuGuid, C Edwards-Challenger, L Josephson, P Farries, E Alarie.
Scotland: Tries: Evans, Konkel, Thomson, Wassell. Con: Martin. Pen: Nelson.
Canada: Tries: Beukeboom 2, Levale, Slevinsky. Cons: Miller 2, Patrinos 2.
Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 3-0, 3-5, 3-7, 3-12, 3-14, 8-14, 13-14, 15-14 half-time, 15-19, 15-21, 20-21, 20-26, 20-28, 25-28.
Referee: B Benvenuti (Italy).