United States 21
At the DAM Health Stadium
SCOTLAND just fell short against the United States in a match which saw them compete all the way to the last play of the game. But let’s not dwell too much on the result. What was of far greater importance, after a traumatic few weeks for the squad, was the collective morale they displayed in this first of two World Cup warm-up games.
Since the end of last month, when the family of their late team-mate Siobhan Cattigan announced they were taking legal action against Scottish Rugby alleging that lack of proper treatment contributed to her death late last year, the players have had matters far more important than rugby to deal with. In those circumstances it would have been understandable if they had been too distracted or demotivated to perform properly in their first outing of the season.
Instead, they applied themselves with real conviction and determination against opponents who, at fifth in the world, are five places above their own position in the global rankings. They may not have been quite good enough to get the better of a USA side who were on top in the scrum for much of the time, whose offloading was inventive, and who on occasion were able to punch holes in the home defence with alarming ease. Even so, they stuck to their task well, persevering right to the end despite an attritional second 40 minutes in which both teams understandably exhibited more than a touch of early-season rustiness.
“Considering that is the first game in four months after a tough pre-season building up to the World Cup, I thought the performance was excellent,” Scotland coach Bryan Easson said. “We worked really hard as a group to put the noise away and concentrate on our goal, which is going to that World Cup. We knew this was going to be a difficult test and we have worked hard on our set piece, our attack and defence shape, and I am confident we are going in the right direction.
“It was not about peaking now. I am pleased how we are progressing. We are rusty, but we can go into the Spain week and fix those.
“There were some real positives and some work-ons as well. To be in the game up until the last play against a top five side in the world is testament to the group. The one thing that pleased me was 23 players have had good game time going into our big goal.”
Two of the 23, Elliann Clark and Elis Martin, made their debuts off the bench after the break. Another substitute, Rachel McLachlan, had to go off injured with an elbow injury not long after coming on; she is now awaiting the results of a scan.
The lead changed four times in a keenly contested first half, which ended with Scotland just in front at 17-16. Lana Skeldon and Rhona Lloyd both touched down, with Helen Nelson adding two conversions and a penalty.
The USA’s points before the break came from tries by Hope Rogers and Kate Zackary, while Alev Kelter and Gabby Cantorna added penalties. In a far less dynamic second half, Rogers scored her second try of the game to secure a narrow but deserved win for her side.
In truth, the visitors might well have added a couple of more scores after the break. Lock Hallie Taufoou had a touchdown chalked off by the TMO for a knock-on, and home full-back Chloe Rollie, celebrating her 50th cap, had a try-saving tackle on winger Lotte Clapp minutes from time.
Even so, Scotland did more than enough to convince themselves that, as Easson said, they are on the right track. They now begin preparations for the game against Spain, also at the DAM Health, on Sunday 11th.
Scorers – Scotland: Tries: Skeldon, Lloyd. Cons: Nelson 2. Pen: Nelson.
USA: Tries: Rogers 2, Zachary. Pens: Kelter, Cantorna.
Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, H Smith (S Campbell 71); H Nelson (M Smith 60), C Mattison (M McDonald 60); M Wright (L Bartlett 51), L Skeldon, C Belisle (E Clarke 51), E Wassell, S Bonar, R Malcolm (captain), L McMillan (R McLachlan 41, E Martin 56), E Gallagher (J Konkel-Roberts 41).
USA: A Kelter; J Detiveaux, E Haungatau (M Bizer 58), K Howard (T Feury 63), L Clapp; G Cantorna, O Ortiz (C Waters 71); H Rogers (C Benson 71), J Kitlinski, N James (C Jacoby 63), H Taufoou, J Kronish (E Ashenbrucker 58), J Matyas (G Perris-Redding 71), R Johnson, K Zackary (captain).
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland).