Women’s Six Nations: history-makers Scotland deny Wales at the death

Visitors make it seven wins in a row after just seeing off a late home recovery.

Scotland's Sarah Bonar, Leah Bartlett and Rachel Malcolm in a maul against Wales. Image: Tom Maher / Inpho.

Wales 18

Scotland 20

STUART BATHGATE

At Cardiff Arms Park

IT was nerve-wracking right to the death when it might have been all but in the bag by half-time, but in the end Scotland did enough to record a historic seventh consecutive win in all competitions. They had to rely on a missed Welsh conversion attempt a minute from time to secure the victory in this Six Nations match, but it was more than deserved nonetheless.

By stretching their winning run to seven, Bryan Easson’s side have now gone one better than their predecessors who won the Grand Slam way back in 1998. They are almost certainly some way off from emulating that feat, and they will be hard put to get anything at all from their forthcoming two matches against France and England. Nonetheless, they have clearly made substantial progress over the past 12 months, ending a long losing run to embark on a steep upwards trajectory.

This result also brought to a close a losing run in away games in the Championship that stretched back to 2018, and was in fact just a second win on the road for Bryan Easson’s side in the tournament since Italy joined in 2007. Just to emphasise how much they have improved, they had lost their last 10 away games in the Championship by an average of 29 points.

“It feels pretty special just because of the journey we’ve been on,” captain Rachel Malcolm said. “Wales has always been a battle. We were on the right end of the scoreline, and that is probably a result of focusing on ourselves and not getting too caught up in the emotion of this fixture.

“We never stopped believing in the game plan even when it felt like we were running at a brick wall at times. It feels phenomenal. We’ve achieved quite a lot of cool records tonight for our country. This is a team filled with pretty special people.”

Playing with a slight wind at their backs, Scotland went behind after five minutes when they were penalised for not rolling away and Keira Bevan was on target with the award. It only took two minutes for the visitors to hit back, however: after solid progress was made through the middle from a lineout, Coreen Grant took a pass from Meryl Smith, left full-back Jenny Hesketh for dead, and touched down before winger Jasmine Joyce could get to her.

Helen Nelson converted, then after quarter of an hour added a penalty to put Scotland 10-3 up. Those three points might well have been more, as they followed a period of play in which the Scots twice sent penalties to the corner but failed to get their maul going from the lineout.

It was a similar story after Nelson’s penalty, as Scotland continued to enjoy considerable pressure but failed to capitalise on it. Grant looked dangerous every time the ball reached her on the left wing, but too often it was lost infield before it got close to her.

Both teams were just about equally guilty of committing numerous unforced mistakes, but as half-time approached Wales steadily reduced the error count and began to apply some pressure. An attacking scrum deep in Scots territory gave the home side an excellent pressure from which to attack, and from the base No 8 Bethan Lewis launched an assault on the line only to be held up. 

In the end, Wales had to content themselves with the three points just as Scotland had had to do 25 minutes earlier. Leah Bartlett was penalised for going off her feet, and Bevan was on target again with the last kick of the half.

Just 10-6 behind as they went in at the break, Wales must have been the happier of the teams with the score. And, not for the first time, Scotland were left to wonder if they would regret their inability to turn pressure into more points. 

However, they did the best thing possible in such situations by allowing themselves no time to dwell on what might have been. Instead, they hit back early in the second half with a superb score. Emma Orr left three opponents for dead, Rhona Lloyd touched down in the corner. Nelson converted to make it 17-6.  

Tighthead prop Sisilia Tuipulotu had been a massive threat to Scotland all game, and that threat was realised after an hout when she finished from close range. Bevan’s conversion made it 13-17.

Nelson stretched the lead to seven points with a penalty seven minutes from time, but Wales staged a fierce fightback. Some magnificent defence kept them at bay for almost all of those seven minutes, but, after Scotland debutant Alex Stewart was yellow-carded for a team offence, Alex Callender finished off to make it a two-point game. 

With goalkicker Bevan having been subbed off, Lleucu George took the conversion attempt but watched on aghast as it drifted wide of the far post. There was still time for one more play, and from the restart Wales began to run the ball back. But then Sian Jones, the replacement scrum-half, inexplicably sent up a high kick which sailed into touch.

 

Scorers:

Wales: Tries: Tuipulotu, Callender. Con: Bevan. Pens: Bevan 2.

Scotland: Tries: Grant, Lloyd. Cons: Nelson 2. Pens: Nelson 2.

Scoring sequence (Wales first): 3-0, 3-5, 3-7 3-10, 6-10 half-time, 6-15, 6-17, 11-17, 13-17, 13-20

Wales: J Hesketh; J Joyce, H Jones (capt), K Lake, N Metcalfe (C Cox 55); L George, K Bevan (S Jones 74); G Pyrs, K Jones (C Phillips 67), S Tuipulotu (D Rose 67), N John (G Evans 41), A Fleming, A Butchers (K Williams 62), A Callender, B Lewis. 

Scotland: M Smith (C Rollie 76); R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, C Grant; H Nelson, C Mattinson; L Bartlett (M Wright 74), L Skeldon (E Martin 62), C Belisle (E Clarke 61), E Wassell, S Bonar (L McMillan 69), R Malcolm (capt), A Stewart, E Gallagher. 

Yellow card: Scotland: Stewart 78.

Referee: Clara Munarini (Italy).

Attendance: 5,965.

About Stuart Bathgate 1387 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.

14 Comments

  1. The improvements this team have made over the past few years is absolutely phenomenal. It’s great to see so many young players coming in and becoming undroppable (Orr, Smith, Gallagher). Great to watch, well done!

  2. Bravo to the women Scotland team.
    Nice togetherness,
    Lovely tries, hope they can fix the lineout for next week-end.
    Allez les navy bleues!

  3. Very well done. An entertaining game and good skill levels.
    According to the statues in Princes Street, Lisa Thomson is a native of Melrose.Some jobsworth charged with making up info. on a subject they perhaps don’t know much about?
    Well done again. France next “bon chance”!4

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    • Lisa was born in Melrose, which does,technically make her “a natoive of Melrose.” But that her Hawik upbringing wasn’t mentioned is typical of the fact, the SRU Communications Department is totally unfit for purpose.

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  4. Firstly, fantastic to get the win and keep up a seriously good winning streak, played some really good rugby and the defence generally looked really strong. Think tackle success rate was well up in the 90s% and some ferocious hits. I was a bit concerned that a number of issues plaguing the men’s team seems to have spread to the women’s team too. Badly misfunctioning line out, turning down easy points, failing to convert time in the opponents 22 into points through losing possession or conceding a penalty. Some errors at critical times also cost them extra points and a double-digit lead could so easily have ended up as a draw or worse. And a number of penalties conceded when the pressure was on defending the try-line. Some serious deja vous going on!! France will be a stern test and hope they really prove themselves again and there’s no Groundhog Day. Having said all that, hope the team had a great night out in Cardiff, they deserved it!

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  5. Well done Scotland from back to front you where amazing great viewing keep it going. Auntie Fiona nearly brought house down 👏👏🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿👏🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿👏🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿👏

  6. Well done ladies although I think the score could have been more if they had passed the ball along the back-line instead of trying to burst through the middle so often. A word about the commentary, the Scottish girl was excellent but the non-stop wittering Welsh girl made me turn off the sound!

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  7. Superb well done Scotland! Thought France looked v good but butchered multiple chances and were pressured by superb Ireland prop Lind Djougang. We can beat them but it will be a very tough encounter.

  8. Thoroughly deserved win, really strong backline, and although we maybe struggled a bit on the pick and goes, our pack matched them physically which was great to see.

    Need to put teams away though when they dominate territory so well, in some ways very similar to their male colleagues…

  9. It’s funny how practices that are uncritically adopted (I mean, bringing in subs at a pre-determined stage regardless of how the game is going) may damage a team. Not only Keira Bevan’s replacement kicked that pointless up and under with the clock in the red; had Bevan been on the park, she would have probably nailed the final conversion. It would have been a shame for Scotland, as they had clearly been the better team.

  10. Great game, with a functioning lineout could have been a rout. Didn’t think France looked that good so why not another victory next week !!

  11. Well done ladies. A thoroughly professional performance, although I was worried a bit when some of the penalty kicks were turned down rather than keeping the score/lead ticking over. You also seemed well coached which was a change from some recent experiences on the men’s front. A cohesive hard competitive mental attitude was also plain to see. A joy to watch.

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