W6N: sub-par Scotland succumb to England’s excellence

Eight-try stroll takes visitors to within two games of a sixth successive title

Ellie Kildunne
Player of the match Ellie Kildunne evades Scotland's Helen Nelson. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Scotland 0
England 46


SCOTLAND’s improvement over the past 12 months is a matter of record. But when it comes to taking on the best team in the world, they are still well off the pace.

True, this defeat was marginally better than the 50-point-plus losses that they suffered in their previous four outings against England. However, given the challenging conditions and the fact that the visitors played 35 minutes a woman down, it felt even more one-sided than those games had been.

 “I thought England were outstanding today,” Scotland coach Bryan Easson accepted. “Once you give them ball on the front foot and that momentum they will put you under pressure and they are the best team in the world for a reason.

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“The disappointing thing for us is that we didn’t really fire a shot or get into good attacking positions and we are disappointed with that.

 “It was a mixture of a few things. It was difficult conditions, but it was difficult for both teams. England are a physical team and they got very quick ball in this game.

“We will draw a line under this game after the review on Monday and let’s not forget that our first two performances were really good. We will regroup, refocus and take learnings as we build into the two big games to come against Italy and Ireland.

“We have to keep improving and keep working hard to close the gap between ourselves and England because today wasn’t us, it was poor. There were glimpses in there, but today wasn’t good enough. We have got good things in us, but we let England get on the front foot and they punished us.”

England’s hooker, Amy Cokayne, was the absentee for almost half the game – her first back in the side after a year’s absence. Sent to the sin bin late in the first half for a dangerous tackle on Evie Gallagher, she was then shown a second yellow – and thus a red – in the second half for a shoulder-to-head tackle on Lana Skeldon. 

Yet, while England only had 14 players on the pitch, they continued until the end to appear to outnumber Scotland. Their bench only strengthened their physical dominance, which had been in evidence right from the opening minutes.

A heavy shower, whipped in by a strong wind, arrived at the Hive right on cue as the teams stood for the anthems. But the rain had stopped by the time the game kicked off, and, while the wind was a problem throughout, the rain did not return in such force again.

Scotland were forced into a late change when lock Emma Wassell pulled out for family reasons. Fi McIntosh was promoted from the replacements for her debut, while Eva Donaldson came on to the bench. 

With Sarah Bonar having already been ruled out of the rest of the tournament after injuring a shoulder in the win against Wales, Scotland were thus deprived of their most experienced second-row partnership in addition to No 8 Jade Konkel, who has been unable to take part in the Championship because of injury. The squad’s strength in depth has grown significantly over the past couple of seasons, but any team would miss the solid dependability of that trio. 

The conditions made some handling errors inevitable, and England’s early attacks ended with such mistakes – notably one ball dropped by Alex Matthews from Hannah Botterman’s offload. Botterman had eventually been stopped, with some assistance, by Chloe Rollie – just the most glaring example of some of the head-to-head mismatches between defence and attack.

England eventually took the lead after they sent a penalty to touch. The maul was stopped, but the pack regathered, and Cokayne broke through three tackles from five metres out to score an unconverted try.

Abby Dow then made it two when, with the home defence sucked into midfield, play went right and the winger was presented with ample space to go round Rollie and touch down.

Jess Breach then had a touchdown chalked off for a forward pass in the build-up, and Maud Muir was also denied what she thought was a score when play came back for Cokayne’s yellow-card offence. The Scotland maul made initial inroads against the seven-woman pack, but England soon got back on to the front foot, Ellie Kildunne got their third try from a Meg Jones grubber. Holly Aitchison, whose first two attempts had gone wide, converted to take the half-time score to 0-17.

Playing into the wind, Scotland were even more up against it in the second half, and fell further behind within minutes of the restart when Sadia Kabeya scored the bonus-point try off the back of a powerful scrum. Aitchison converted, and after that the only remaining doubt was what the final margin of victory would be.

Breach got her team’s fifth off the back of an advancing scrum, then, after Cokayne’s dismissal, ran in another all too easily against a tiring defence. Kildunne and substitute Marley Packer added further tries in the final 15 to wrap up a victory that takes England to within two victories of another Grand Slam.

“The intent was awesome,” England coach John Mitchell said. “The conditions were difficult. I thought the way we controlled the game in the first half was terrific. To win and still have the ability to learn and find growth in our game is a good place to be in.”


Teams –

Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, E Orr, M Smith (L Thomson 41), C Grant (F McGhie 33); H Nelson, C Mattinson (M McDonald 56), L Bartlett (M Wright 53), L Skeldon (E Martin 60), C Belisle (E Clarke 53), F McIntosh (E Donaldson 51), L McMillan, R Malcolm (capt), A Stewart (R McLachlan 56), E Gallagher. 

England: E Kildunne; A Dow, M Jones (S Gregson 72), T Heard (Z Harrison 66), J Breach; H Aitchison, N Hunt (L Packer 66); H Botterman (M Carson 57), A Cokayne, M Muir (K Clifford 57), R Galligan (C Powell 58), A Ward, Z Aldcroft (capt), S Kabeya (M Packer 60), A Matthews (M Feaunati 60). 

Referee: Clara Munarini (Italy)

Scorers –

Scotland: No scorers

England: Tries: Cokayne, Dow, Kildunne 2, Kabeya, Breach 2, M Packer; Cons Aitchison 2, Harrison.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-5; 0-10; 0-15; 0-17 (h-t) 0-22; 0-24; 0-29; 0-34; 0-39; 0-44; 0-46.

Yellow card – 

England: Cokayne (30 mins)

Red (for second yellow): Cokayne (55 mins)

Attendance: 7,784.

W6N: sub-par Scotland succumb to England’s excellence

About Stuart Bathgate 1412 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. All i would say is that England are way ahead of the curve compared to every team atm. Scotland have attracted bigger crowds recently due to improved performances and entertaining (competitive) games of late – to say the women should not be funded professionally based on 1 game is harsh.

    Also important to remember skillset drops with increases in fatigue and pressure – Exeter looked very amateur against Toulouse in that 2nd half today because of the talent of the opposition. It’s all relative.

  2. One comment of the mens and womens game are miles apart may be true… I enjoy watching womens back threes still trying to outstrip defences for pace… so scared to loose possession nowadays mens rugby is… it’s a different game, watch it for what it is a developing game and we all know England, NZ and France are years in advance, so shall we give up on women… like the under 18/20 mens NO we shouldn’t they are there to learn and supported players learn best in all cases.

  3. Well said Iain. The women’s game is developing quickly and you see the benefit from more investment. Sad that there are such dinosaurs as GH and even sadder that he attracts likes on this page.
    Rugby has to move on from the deadweight of people who want to take the game back 30 years. We need rid of these attitudes among people who help run the game in Scotland. It’s embarrassing.

  4. Headline should instead read “sub-par Scotland succumb to England’s power”.
    That said, England didn’t really have to achieve anything approaching “excellence” to bury the Scotland Women collective on this occasion.

  5. It’s hard not to sound sexist in a discussion of this type but I agree with GalaHannay , a player , whether that be male or female must have the required skill set to even consider pro rugby. The relative difference in skill sets between mens and women’s game is vast. There are many very capable male players who would dearly love to have had a pro contract however will never come close – that’s just the stark reality unfortunately. In the women’s game however there are nowhere near the same layers of difficulty , indeed the player pool is that small that if you play club rugby you are in the spotlight for a pro contract as opposed to the multiple difficult layers of the male game.
    I also agree with the sentiment around the women’s arrival at the Hive yesterday , it looked like they were all heading on a Sunday social. Compare that to the men’s arrival in the 6 nations where they they generally looked very focussed and are already embedded in their match day preparation for the challenges ahead.
    I just don’t think that women have to work anywhere near as hard for the opportunity for pro rugby at present and this shows in the skill level on display. The skill level was desperate yesterday , particularly the kicking , it was laughable and painful to watch at times. Thomson has some sort of bizarre ritual before she kicks which involves bouncing the ball about 6 times then lifting it above her head. She would be much better limiting the movement beforehand and concentrating on the point of contact alone…
    There is a point to kicking but only if executed well…
    Time may improve the skill levels but I just don’t think that Scotland has either the financial resource or player depth / number in the women’s game to support a professional women’s rugby team and never will. Rugby is a male dominated sport so when taken in the context that Scotland has only 2 male pro sides , I don’t see how anyone can make an argument for the Scottish female national side being professional and performances and the skill level on the pitch would back this up.

  6. No one expected a result for Scotland yesterday so this is an improvement on last season. I suppose the parallels would be a Nat 2 club meeting Hawick or Currie in a cup tie. If they kept it to under 50 they would be pleased.

    I’m curious about the coaches comments though “ We have to keep improving and keep working hard to close the gap between ourselves and England because today wasn’t us, it was poor.” who was it if it wasn’t them?? We can be great in our own context and be competitive with the teams around us but England are a massive step up and it shows.

  7. As pros they have to take the flak when they fail to turn up and put in a non performance like yesterday. With the claimed development of squad depth there has to be consequences for some of the starting 15 who should be dropped. A major setback after good progress since last year’s WSN.

  8. GH with the ‘ I’m not sexist but….’. Dearie me….this is dripping with misogony whilst I bet he has no probs with Jack Dempsey looking bored during Flower of Scotland, Ben Healy unable to do anything but kick or Chris Harris unable to catch clap in Amsterdam. It was a poor day at the Office but the ladies have less time as pros than their opponents who have been pros since their teens. Unlike the men’s side the women have actually won a tournament this millennium. Would GH have all the pro men sacked because they can’t do better than 3rd over course of nearly quarter of a century?? What a sad little man probably scared of his own shadow when confronted with a woman in real life.

  9. Scotland were very poor and had no answer to Englands pressure. Scotland’s skill level was woefully short of the mark , their kicking game in particular. Not for the first time this season , Scotland seem to go to Lisa Thomson for kicking out of hand and her techinique is truly awful and the end result of the majority of her kick is even worse. It says very little for Scotlands front line kicking game that Thomson comes off the bench to assume the primary kicking roll and the standard on show is so poor. The tackling as well was awful Chloe Rollie at full back was playing touch , she actively moved out of Cockaynes way at one point.
    Scotland in the second half , without the wind , were clueless , gave up massive territory by ooor kicking and basically fed a very dangerous England back three at every opportunity… suicide.
    This is where I have a lot of difficulty when the discussion moves to professional contracts in the woman’s game. Were any of the basic skills on show anywhere close to meriting a professional contract … never in a million years…
    The kickers we have are not novices , they have played for many years and had professional contracts so quite why their skill levels are so poor is very concerning, maybe they will just not get any better whatever the level of training they receive. Today Scotland would have been beaten by a male club U16 side , why then do these players really merit professional contracts? I have no major issue with women playing rugby albeit I don’t really feel it is a good fit from a physiology perspective , I do however have an issue with them being on pro contracts.
    If you are on a professional contract and being paid to play the bare minimum standard that should be expected is that a players basic skill are good , this is simply not the case with Scotland nor with many other international teams. England and New Zealand are worth watching otherwise it’s bang average to poor fare.
    In some sports I just don’t think men and women merit equal consideration and rugby is one of these. The men’s game and women’s game is worlds apart , I would not even class the women’s game as particularly entertaining.
    When you watched the Scotlands women’s team walking into the stadium it looked like a bit of a joke for them all to me , they just looked pleased to be there and I’m not surprised , being paid to produce that standard of rugby , I’d be laughing too.
    You have to earn a professional contract and be of a good enough standard to justify it. I can’t think of many players , if any , in that Scotland squad that I would suggest merit being paid to play rugby.
    I know this is likely to be an unpopular post but I am fed up of hearing the rhetoric associated with Scotland women’s rugby whilst watching players who are simply not good enough from any perspective.
    When you add in the mind numbing commentary as well , it’s actually a very hard watch.

    • Oh dear, with this attitude no woman’s sport would ever evolve and improve. Compare woman’s football now to where it was 30 years ago, you need to invest to improve the standards. The football authorities to their credit have invested heavily in the woman’s game and are starting to reap the benefits on and off the pitch.
      As a watcher of most of the woman’s international game that performance by England was probably as good as I’ve seen, they by their own standards have been poor over the last few years, if they carry on like this they could be untouchable over the next few years.
      The Scotland woman’s team have improved in their performance levels over the last 18 months and have 2 huge games coming up. Ireland are improving at a rapid rate
      I have seen the improvement in the woman’s game at club level and this new Celtic league is a great step forward.
      It is a sport in its infancy and needs all the backing we can afford.
      Italy mens team has taken 30 years to be competitive in the 6 Nations, with your attitude we would have kicked them out the 6 Nations and not paid their players the same til they improved their standard.
      As in the mens game we need to increase the participation levels at youth level but that discussion is for another day.

      • Iain – accountability (across all key areas….) is a pre-requisite of professionalism. It is no excuse in such an instance to claim that womens rugby “is a sport in its infancy”, when it is so for all concerned, not only Scotland.

        Equally, when a commodity (such as sport) is offered for sale in return for financial reward, then paying customers are fully entitled to form a view as to value for money, however they might gauge any of that.

      • Well said Iain. The women’s game is developing quickly and you see the benefit from more investment. Sad that there are such dinosaurs as GH and even sadder that he attracts likes on this page.
        Rugby has to move on from the deadweight of a generation who want to take the game back 30 years. We need rid of these attitudes among people who help run the game in Scotland. It’s embarrassing.

    • Unfairly harsh. Yes England are in a different class and played outstandingly yesterday. Scotland did look a bit cumbersome and lacking edge but again England didn’t allow them to play. Scotland have improved in recent years and are on an upward trajectory but cant be expected to close the gap on England overnight who are a class apart. Give them a break.

    • Well GalaHannay, why do you bother watching and why subject us all to your tirade?

      I watched most of the game and enjoyed it, Scotland were up against it as England are clearly at another level, but they put in a good shift on what, esp in the second half, was very tricky conditions. Kicking into the wind was nigh on impossible.

      Next two games will be far more equal.


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