Women’s 6N: Ireland fightback denies Scotland third-place finish

Late penalty gives home team the result they needed to overtake their opponents, who finish fourth in the Championship

Francesca McGhie
Ireland's Katie Corrigan tackles Scotland winger Francesca McGhie.Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Ireland 15

Scotland 12

@ the Kingspan Stadium

SCOTLAND’s hopes of a third-place finish in the Six Nations – and the automatic place at next year’s Rugby World Cup that goes with it – were dashed as Ireland edged to victory.

The result – achieved in the end by a late penalty from stand-off Dannah O’Brien – means that it is Ireland who finish third instead, a point ahead of Scotland, who finish fourth. Bryan Easson’s still appear certain to reach the World Cup via the WXV2 tournament later in the year, but they had hoped to be competing with the elite of the global game in WXV1 instead – another prize that would have come their way had they won or even drawn here.

They had two chances to go for the draw in the final minutes with kicks at goal – the first chance falling into the realistic category – but on both occasions opted to go to touch instead. Those were perhaps brave decisions, but perhaps also a touch naive and idealistic. 

“It’s probably one that I’ll need to have a look back at,” captain Rachel Malcolm admitted of that late passage of play. “It was the decision we made in the moment and we back that.”

Ireland deserved the victory, and had the chances to have won by a greater margin. Scotland, by contrast, will reflect on a performance in which, while once again short of their very best form, they came very close to pulling off what would been a third win of the campaign.

“There were opportunities to win the game and we didn’t take them,” Malcolm continued. “I think we struggled to break them down from an attack point of view. Our lineout defence gave us a platform to play off: our lineout attack probably didn’t function as well as we would have liked. 

“When we had the ball we probably didn’t threaten as much as we would like. Right now I don’t know exactly why that is.

“Defensively we put in a brilliant performance, particularly in the first 40 minutes when Ireland were really going at us in terms of those physical carries – I think we fronted up phenomenally well. But we can’t defend for that length of time and not potentially break. It’s what happened.”

While defeat left Malcolm frustrated and disappointed, she insisted that the team remain on an upward trajectory after a campaign that saw them win in Cardiff for the first time in 20 years and in Italy for the first time since 1999. “We are a team who are now wanting to compete with the top five in the world, and to come fourth and to lose today does feel like a little bit of a step back,” she continued.

“To have two wins, to come so close against France and push Ireland right up to the final whistle, is an incredible achievement in a very tough tournament.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied with that, but it doesn’t change what we’ve built over the last 12 months. The conviction in attack and the ability to put away opportunities is going to be the difference to take us to the next level.”

Ireland had the bulk of the pressure in the first half, but Scotland secured the only points when Elis Martin, the hooker who had come in as a late replacement on Friday for the injured Lana Skeldon, finished off from a lineout maul. 

The score came after a penalty was sent to touch for the second time, Rachel Malcolm won clean ball from the throw, and the pack, augmented by a couple of packs, powered their way to the line. Helen Nelson’s conversion attempt – taken with the shot clock at zero after the ball had fallen off the tee and had to be replaced – fell short.

There was a lengthy break shortly after that when Caity Mattinson, the Scotland scrum-half, was left lying flat out after a collision. After treatment on the field, she was stretchered off and replaced by Mairi McDonald.

From the resumption until the end of the half, the story was a simple one: Ireland strove to turn possession into points, and Scotland did everything in their power to prevent them. The maul was the home team’s most potent weapon, and just after the half-hour mark they thought it had brought them level when Neve Jones was propelled over the goal line. However, the referee ruled that the attempt to ground had been held up, with replays appearing to show that Lisa Thomson had got underneath the ball.

Ireland had another excellent chance to score with the clock in the red when they sent a penalty to touch just 10 metres out. This time, however, the throw-in was stolen by Scotland, and Nelson kicked out to end the half.

After toiling for so long to no avail in the first 40, Ireland needed just a couple of minutes after the restart before levelling. A kick into the visitors’ 22 went loose, 

Enya Breen gathered, Brittany Hogan took it on and then provided the scoring pass for Katie Corrigan, the winger, who grounded in the right corner. Dannah O’Brien’s conversion attempt fell short.

Sco had been able to do next to nothing in attack since their early score, but it did not take long for them to conjure up a reply to that try. Lisa Thomson began the move with a strong run from a lineout, and although Francesca McGhie ran out of space on the left, good ground was then made through the middle before Mairi McDonald popped up a crash ball to Thomson, who went over from seven or eight metres out. Nelson’s conversion put her team seven points clear.

The Irish defence began to put in some dominant tackles as Scotland tried to build on that lead, and then just before the hour mark the home team drew level. A penalty went to touch on the right, and although the maul was stopped momentarily, it got going again and Cliodhna Moloney finished off. O’Brien converted to make it 12-12 and set up a final-quarter shoot-out.

Both teams had half-chances, no more, to score from open play in those closing 20 minutes. In the end, however, the decisive score was a penalty, converted by O’Brien after Scotland had strayed offside.

The Scots were twice awarded penalties of their own in what little time remained, and the first, at least, definitely came into the kickable category. A successful kick at goal would have given Scotland the third-place finish that had been their ambition all campaign, but they went in search of the winning score on both occasions by going to touch.

In the first instance, the maul did not get started and Ireland eventually turned the ball over. At the second penalty, taken after Beibhinn Parsons had been sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on, Ireland stole the lineout and cleared to touch to end the game.

Teams –

Ireland: M Deely; K Corrigan, E Higgins, E Breen, B Parsons; D O’Brien, A Reilly; L Djougang, N Jones (C Moloney 47), C Haney (S McGrath 43), D Wall, S Monaghan (co-capt), A Wafer, E McMahon (co-capt, S Ikahihifo 71), B Hogan. 

Scotland: M Smith; C Grant, E Orr, L Thomson, F McGhie; H Nelson, C Mattinson (M McDonald 12); L Bartlett (L Cockburn 63), E Martin (M Wright 63), C Belisle (E Clarke 48), E Wassell, L McMillan (E Donaldson 59), R Malcolm (captain), A Stewart (R McLachlan 59), E Gallagher. 

Referee: Natarsha Ganley (New Zealand).

Scorers –

Ireland: Tries Corrigan 42mins, Moloney 59. Pen O’Brien 73. Con O’Brien.

Scotland: Tries Martin 8, Thomson 50. Con Nelson.

Scoring sequence (Ireland first): 0-5; h-t; 5-5; 5-10; 5-12; 10-12; 12-12; 15-12.

Yellow card: Ireland: Parsons 79.



About Stuart Bathgate 1415 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. Last week I believed I was being constructive on the Italian game when I said ‘The Irish game will not be a cakewalk. Our forwards can expect a much harder game in the scrum, line and loose play. The backs will have to be slicker, particularly in the centre, and take the ball going forward, not static as it was in the first half yesterday. Our tackling at times was slipshod and we know the Irish like to run at us from depth. Giving the ball away easily in lines out and clearance kicks will put us under pressure.’
    Unfortunately, it became apparent half way through the first half that our lines out were not functioning and yet we persisted in throwing to the back of the line. When we did get penalties and kicked for touch our actual distance gained from most of the kicks was negligible. We should be making 20 – 25 metres from those kicks. Then we would loose the ball. Individually, our backs have flair, but yesterday our back three repeatedly let opposition kicks bounce and bounce again before attempting to collect the ball. By this time the kicker had moved up field and put the defence under pressure. This is a basic skill that is lacking throughout Scottish ladies rugby.
    It hurts me to say it but the Irish pack looked as though they wanted to win more than we did. Should we have attempted a penalty kick to equalise? Perhaps the decision was made to kick for touch because there was not enough confidence in our kicker’s ability to kick the distance or get the right direction?
    All in all, the team has developed and improved, there is good young talent coming through and given time, resources and commitment, I am sure Scotland’s ladies will be a more difficult team to beat. Onwards and upwards.

  2. A lack of proper pathway and development is failing all these teams under the Mens national team. The U20’s, players contracted to the Edinburgh & Glasgow academies and the womens system is all badly managed at SRU level, it’s been happening for years and all we hear is ‘hard luck, well played…’ it’s not good enough. Changing Dodson isn’t going to magically fix things either – they need a clear out of all the dead wood, the Women’s coaching team all need to go – they’ve had long enough and not up to the job, we need coaches that can instill a winning mentality. Oh and who’s bright idea was it to have the Sarah Beaney Cup Final on at the same time as a Scotland Women’s International. It’s amateur hour.

  3. Little point going for touch when the Scotland kickers are as poor as they are , nowhere near good enough. Again kicking game and decision making very poor.


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