Women’s 6N: Scotland make history with first win in Italy since 1999

Tries by Lana Skeldon, Emma Orr and Chloe Rollie are enough to give Scots their second win in this season's Championship.

Scotland have ended a 24 year losing run in Italy. Image: Giuseppe Fama / Inpho
Chloe Rollie scored one of Scotland's three tries but was sin-binned a minute from time. Image: Giuseppe Fama / Inpho

Italy 10

Scotland 17

 

STUART BATHGATE

WINNING in Cardiff for the first time in 20 years, as Scotland did in the first round of this year’s Six Nations, was impressive enough. But this afternoon in Parma they recorded an even more historic result, holding off a late fightback by the home side to win on Italian soil for the first time since 1999.

They had previously avoided defeat once before this century, claiming a 6-6 draw in Rome back in 2010. And as the home team pressed hard in the closing minutes at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, a draw was briefly a very real possibility. In the end, though, the Scots defence – reduced to 14 women for the final minute after Chloe Rollie’s sinbinning for a dangerous tackle – kept the Italians at bay.

Rachel Malcolm’s team are now third in the Championship table behind England and France, the sides who beat them in the previous two matches.  If they win at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Saturday they will hold on to that third place, and as a result qualify for both WXV1 and a place in next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The Scotland camp were last night awaiting official confirmation that Rollie’s yellow card had been upgraded to a red, which could mean she will miss that final-round match against Ireland, who lost 88-10 to England earlier today. Meryl Smith, an unused substitute here, is likely to return to the No 15 jersey that she wore against Wales and France if Rollie is suspended.

Italy’s attempt to stage a late fightback made for an especially tense end to what had been a hard-fought contest throughout – one which, according to Scotland head coach Bryan Easson, his team should have won more convincingly. “We were frustrated,” he said.

“It was scrappy. It wasn’t the best performance – however, we executed when we needed to.

“We would have lost this game a year ago, two years ago. You learn how to win, and how to build a lead, and we did that. That was probably the pleasing thing – we knew how to dig out a win, although it wasn’t a brilliant performance.”

Having said that, Easson admitted that it was a sign of how much his squad had improved that he was able to find fault in their victories. “I think it is a mark of the team now that we are critiquing wins, because we want to get better,” he added.

“We want to be fighting and winning against the best teams, and to do that we’ve got to be more consistent with our performances. We’ll always look at areas we can improve.

“Our minds are already on Ireland. It’s really positive to be in this position. We’re learning a lot with each other and working together as a group at putting in a more consistent performance next week.”

The visitors’ defence was very much to the fore in the opening stages of what was a tense battle at the home ground of URC side Zebre. But, after the first half ended 7-7, in the end what made the difference were two tries in quick succession late in the second half, from Emma Orr and then Rollie.


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After defending well in those opening stages, the visitors went on to dominate the rest of the first quarter. They had a good chance to go ahead from a lineout maul after 10 minutes, but lost the ball forward. Then they twice turned down kicks at goal in favour of sending the ball to touch, but lost possession from the lineout both times. 

Italy remained dangerous on the counter-attack, and winger Francesca Granzotto came close to intercepting an Emma Orr pass – had she done so, a try was all but certain. Having weathered the Scots storm, the home side began to put together some good passing play. When they were awarded a penalty in Scottish territory they too sent the ball to touch, but the throw was not straight and Scotland cleared from the scrum.

It was not long before the Italians were back on the attack, though, and this time they made it count. Flanker Ilaria Arrighetti began the charge off the back of a lineout, and then centre Alyssa D’Inca timed her supporting run superbly to come into the line and burst through from 40 metres out, turning inside close to the line to steer clear of Rhona Lloyd. Beatrice Rigoni added the conversion to make it 7-0.

But Scotland wasted no time in hitting back. Lana Skeldon won a penalty from the restart with some good work on the ground, and the award once more went to touch. Unlike the previous two occasions, however, this time Scotland got their lineout right, and Skeldon herself touched down off the back of the maul. Helen Nelson equalised from the conversion. 

Scotland were under pressure in the early stages of the second half, and the error count began to rise as a result. Scrum-half Caity Mattinson kicked out on the full, Skeldon lost the ball forward in a tackle, and then a clearance kick was charged down.

Even so, Italy were unable to turn that pressure into anything close to a scoring chance. And, with Leah Bartlett and Elliann Clarke on in the front row, the Scots scrum began to get on top again. Rachel McLachlan also came off the bench, and she made an instant impact too, making a turnover straight away.

With 63 minutes played, Scotland seized the lead. A kick ahead by Lisa Thomson was fielded by Aura Muzzo, but she was tackled by Lloyd, the ball went loose, and Emma Orr picked up to run in a score from five metres out. Helen Nelson’s conversion attempt went wide.

Five minutes later, Scotland scored again. The move began with a penalty to touch, and although the lineout maul was sacked, the attack carried on. The attack probed patiently through the middle, then went left, and eventually Orr put Rollie in for her 20th try for her country.

Nelson’s conversion attempt went wide again, but Scotland were still into a double-figures lead at 17-7. With just eight minutes to go, that lead was reduced to seven when Rigoni chipped over a penalty after a dangerous break by Sara Tounesi.

Then with just seconds on the clock Rollie was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous clean-out. Italy kicked to touch – but knocked on from the lineout and the final whistle blew.

Teams –

Italy: V Ostuni Minuzzi; A Muzzo, A D’Inca, B Rigoni, F Granzotto; V Madia, S Stefan; S Turani (G Maris 57), V Vecchini, S Seye (L Gai 71), S Tounesi, G Duca, I Arrighetti, F Sgorbini (I Locatelli 72), E Giordano (captain, V Fedrighi 57). 

Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, F McGhie; H Nelson, C Mattinson (M McDonald 59); M Wright (L Bartlett 52), L Skeldon (E Martin 73), C Belisle (E Clarke 52), E Donaldson (F McIntosh 71), L McMillan, R Malcolm (captain), A Stewart (R McLachlan 62), E Gallagher.

Referee: M Cogger-Orr (Canada).

Scorers –

Italy: Try: D’Inca (32mins). Pen: Rigoni (74). Con: Rigoni.

Scotland: Tries: Skeldon (35), Orr (63), Rollie (69). Con: Nelson.

Scoring sequence (Italy first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7 (h-t) 7-12; 7-17; 10-17.

Yellow card –

Scotland: Rollie (80 mins).

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 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.

7 Comments

  1. The tide is turning, and to record a second win away in this six Nation’s series and a first on Italian soil is just reward for the efforts of the whole team. However, given the territory and possession that Scotland had then to once again hang on in the final few minutes, shades of Cardiff coming to mind, but we got through. 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.
    Ladies, you are developing into a team that is earning respect from your countrymen. Keep up the good work but to get there mistakes have to be cut out.

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  2. It was always going to be early to challenge England n France with the new contracts but. Credit for terrifying French….3rd would be a serious achievement given way Ireland Wales Italy have funded themselves too. Back line is so exciting. Imagine getting success from developing players in Scotland instead of buying mercenaries…..wonder if that will ever catch on??!!

  3. Just Watched the game back – thought Scotland played with a ton a confidence and resilience to get the win. Fully fronted up.

    Who was saying the women should not be getting pro contracts the week before? I think they owe the team an apology.

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    • They’ve improved markedly over the last 18 months. Two away wins and another against Ireland would round off an excellent tournament.

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  4. Great result. I don’t watch every game though it’s obvious the vast improvement there’s been the last 12 months, presumably due to their recent professional contracts.

    3rd place must surely be the finishing target.

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