Scotland Women draw positives from heavy defeat to England

Head coach Philip Doyle says he is disappointed but not despondent after 53 point defeat at snowy Murrayfield

Helen Nelson on the ball for Scotland against England. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON
Helen Nelson on the ball for Scotland against England. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON

Scotland Women 0

England Women 53

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

LOSING by 50 odd points and failing to trouble the scoreboard operator is never a cause for celebration, but there was a clear sense of satisfaction in the Scotland camp – and perhaps some relief –  that this was a 27-point improvement on last year’s thrashing against the same opposition at Twickenham.

It was a surreal occasion, played behind closed doors apart from a light sprinkling of press, family, friends and SRU staff in the vast West Stand of the national stadium, after the initial venue and kick-off time [Scotstoun on Sunday afternoon] proved unworkable due to the impact Storm Ciara. Despite this, both sides managed to keep their focus to produce a vigorous, albeit one-sided, contest in arctic conditions.

“Its a hard one to take in some ways, such as our line-out not being good enough meaning that they put us under terrible pressure there,” said Scotland head coach Philip Doyle. “But the scrum was good for the first 60 minutes, which was encouraging going forward, and we closed the gap from an 80-0 drubbing last year with no character to a 53-0 loss with lots of character, and I’m going to take that going into Italy [in just under two weeks’ time].”

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“It is a bit disappointing that we couldn’t fire a shot,” he continued. “The conditions favoured England, for sure. They’re bigger and heavier, and if a mistake is made they can pounce on it a lot better than we can.

“You must remember that they [England] have been fully professional for a year now, and you can see it a mile away. There is a difference in class, and that’s okay because England is not where we want to be just yet – maybe in a couple of years – but where we want to go now is get to the 2021 World Cup [the qualifiers are in September] and build that way.

“So, in that sense, I am not too perturbed. There’s a lot to fix going into Italy, because I guarantee that will be a good game, and the girls are genuinely up for it already. Now the girls really know where they need to go, and next year I can guarantee you that we’ll definitely put points on England and it will be a closer score-line.”

The visitors were straight onto the offensive and took the lead inside three minutes when tight-head prop Sarah Bern rumbled over from close range, and Emily Scarratt added the straight-forward extras.

England continued to monopolise territory and possession and Scarratt edged them further ahead with a penalty, given against Scotland for not releasing, on 18 minutes; then, when Bern broke from halfway she only had the diminutive Chloe Rollie to beat, but she lost her footing a few metres before contact and Scotland weathered that particular storm.

The Red Roses did, however, extend their advantage a few minutes later, when Scotland’s defence was pulled all out of shape by a long period of continuity play, and a gap opened up on the left wing for Jess Breach to cruise home.

A dropped English pass on their own 10m line was hoovered up by Scotland, and Evie Tonkin sensed an opportunity, but she couldn’t quite escape down the left, and the visitors finished the half back on the front foot when Abby Dow brushed past five tackles on a weaving run from halfway to score in the corner, and Scarratt nailed the touchline conversion.

England second-row Poppy Cleall thought she had got the bonus point try at the start of the second half when she charged onto a hacked ahead ball in the in-goal area, only to be pulled back from an offside, but it was only a brief reprieve for the Scots, with full-back England Emily Scott darting in less than a minute later.

The procession continued when Tonkin was beaten to a cross-field kick by opposite number Dow, and the ball was knocked back for Scott to flop in for her second try in quick succession.

Dow squeezed over in the right-hand corner for try number six, and Breach had one knocked off on the opposite side of the park for a forward pass, but England kept their foot on Scotland’s throat, and when their now dominant scrum marched over the try-line from five yards out it was captain and No 8 Sarah Hunter who got the downward pressure.

To their enormous credit, Scotland rallied with about quarter of an hour to go and had ten minutes in England’s half – their only spell of territorial dominance in the match – but they couldn’t really get close to the line, and when the home scrum was marched backwards 20 yards it was a demoralising moment. England sent a long clearance downfield, and Rollie attempted to take a quick throw-in but misjudged the situation, and was punished by replacement scrum-half Claudia MacDonald, who hacked ahead for the final try of the match.

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Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, L  Thomson, H Nelson, E Tonkin; S Law (A Sergeant 48), M McDonald; L Bartlett (L Cockburn 58), L Skeldon (M Wright 50), M Forsyth (P Muzambe 70), E Wassell (L McMillan 65, L Skeldon 74)), S Bonar, R Malcolm, R McLachlan (S Cattigan 45), J  Konkel.

England: E Scott; A Dow (S  McKenna 62), E Scarratt, A  Reed, J Breach; Z Harrison (K Daley-McLean 58), N Hunt (C MacDonald 58); V Cornborough (H Botterman 48) Davies (A Cokayne 48), S Bern (S Brown 58), P Cleall (H Millar-Mills 57), Z Aldcroft, S Beckett, V Fleetwood (A Harper 58), S Hunter.

Referee: Clara Munarini


Scorers –


England: Tries: Bern, Breach, Dow 2, Scott 2, Hunter, MacDonald; Con: Scarratt 5; Pen: Scarratt.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-10; 0-15; 0-20; 0-22 (h-t) 0-27; 0-32; 0-34; 0-39; 0-44; 0-46; 0-51; 0-53.

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About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.