A SPIRITED performance by Colombia saw them beat Kazakhstan 18-10 this afternoon to go through to a showdown with Scotland on Friday for the last place in this year’s Rugby World Cup. The South Americans had a woman sent off after 15 minutes in the semi-final, but held off a late fightback from their higher-ranked opponents and secured the win in the last kick of the match with a penalty.
The Final Qualifying Tournament in Dubai was originally meant to comprise two semi-finals and a final, but when Hong Kong and Samoa withdrew from the previous stage for Covid-related reasons, Scotland were give a place in the final thanks to having the highest world ranking. Bryan Easson’s team are currently ninth in the world and have made significant progress this season, above all in the European qualifying tournament in Italy, where wins over Spain and Ireland took them through to this last stage of qualifying.
Colombia are a relatively lowly 26th, so Scotland will be strong favourites to beat them and book their place in New Zealand. But, after seeing off a Kazakhstan side who are currently 11 rungs above them in the rankings, they will be confident of another upset.
The favourites tag is not one that this Scotland side has worn too often over the past few years, but Sarah Law, for one, is confident that they are equipped to cope with the pressure. “It is something we have chatted about, because it’s something we’ve never had before,” said the stand-off, whose last-gasp conversion against Ireland gave the Scots the win that took them into this last stage of qualifying.
“There are a lot of us who have been around a while now and we have the experience of winning games at international level, which is something that we didn’t do too much in the last two World Cup qualifying campaigns. There is an entire generation of Scottish girls who haven’t seen Scotland on the world stage.
“It has been 12 years since Scotland have been there. And I think it would be an incredible high to get to a World Cup and perform on that stage.
“There has been a huge shift over the nine years I’ve been involved and those differences were kind of reflected in the last two matches we came through at the qualifier. We’ve got to know each other better, which certainly helps, and we’ve had more time playing together and training together than we’ve ever had before.
“I think the big thing over the last three years building up to this qualifier has been learning about patience and having composure when it matters. We knew there would be big pressure games in Italy and we knew that we’d have to respond to those accordingly. And I think in those last two minutes against Ireland we missed a kick to touch, but at that point we were still in control and then kept the ball for 18 phases to go over in the corner. That was a reflection on how far we have come.”
Friday’s match kicks off at 3pm British time and will be streamed on World Rugby’s YouTube channel and shown live on BBC Alba.