Women’s 6N: slow-starting Scots lose out on a Paduan paddy field

The defeat means that Scotland are fifth in the final table

Hooker Lana Skeldon
Hooker Lana Skeldon contributed seven points against Italy. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.




@Stadio Plebiscito

SCOTLAND were unable to record a second consecutive away win in the Six Nations Championship in Padua yesterday, but emerged with considerable credit from a game which took place in horrendously muddy conditions.

The omens were not good when Italy scored two quick tries in the first half and wrapped up the bonus point early in the second, but scores from Lana Skeldon and Eilidh Sinclair made the final result a truer reflection of the game.

The defeat means that Scotland are fifth in the final table, ahead of Wales on points differential thanks to their historic win in Dublin a week earlier – their first away victory in the competition since 2006. Italy, who beat the Welsh in the previous round, are fourth.

Two days before the Spring Equinox, Scotland were welcomed to Padua by rain, wind and a pitch which has definitely seen better days. It was not exactly how one would imagine an average away game in Italy – even with Padua being located in the north-east of the Bel Paese and not renowned as one of its best locations for sunbathing. The pitch looked threadbare to start with, and once the heavy rain took a hold, the surface quickly deteriorated.

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Drier conditions would have been more conducive to the counter-attacking game in which the likes of Chloe Rollie are so dangerous, but by the same token Italy might also have found more space. Certainly, Scotland coach Shade Munro accepted that the home team deserved their victory.

“Italy were just the better team today,” he said. “They executed their tries very well and took advantage of the good ball they got in the first half from the set-piece. We made it easier for them by standing off a wee bit.

“There’s a lesson to learn here for us: you don’t wait to see what they’re bringing, you stop them bringing it to you, which is what happened in the second half. Maybe conditions dictated it, and it was a bit easier to do, but the same mentality shown in the second half has to be applied always.”

Italy took the lead after less than three minutes through a Melissa Bettoni try converted by Michela Sillari as Scotland appeared to have been caught cold, and when Sofia Stefan got their second there were still less than 10 minutes played. Towards the end of the first quarter, with the rain beginning in earnest, Scotland managed to ask the first questions of the Italian defence with a couple of breaks from Hannah Smith – well tackled, on both occasions, by Manuela Furlan – but they were unable to sustain the pressure.

Indeed, not only did Scotland struggle to find a hole in the Italian defensive line, they also left their flanks open to Italy’s counter-attacks. Furlan showed the Scots how it should be done with a fine slaloming run round three defenders before providing the scoring pass to Giada Franco.

Another conversion from Sillari made it 19-0 at half-time, and it got worse for Scotland two minutes after the break when Beatrice Rigoni scored the bonus-point try, again converted by the centre. Nevertheless, Scotland get the reward for their hard work with two tries in five minutes.

The first came from Skeldon, who muscled her way through the defence with an astute pick-and-go to claim her first try on her 26th appearance. Then, after more good work from the pack, substitute Sinclair slid over from a couple of metres out. Skeldon converted the second try after Sarah Law picked up an injury when unsuccessfully attempting the first conversion.

Italy were able to shore up their defence after conceding those two scores, and in the latter stages looked as likely to add to their lead as Scotland did to narrow it. Munro acknowledged the progress they have made during this campaign as something his squad must learn from, while also insisting that his own players have improved over the five games.

“We have never given up,” the coach added. “The willingness to improve, to become better players, to evolve as a team are there. There’s lots of rewards we can take from this Six Nations besides only winning one game. We’re up against good teams. Italy have been better and we need to emulate teams like them.”

Italy: M Furlan; S Stefan, M Sillari, B Rigoni, M Magatti; V Madia, S Barattin; G Giacomoli, M Bettoni, L Gai, V Ruzza, G Duca, G Franco, I Locatelli, E Giordano. Substitutes: S Turani, E Ricci, M Merlo, E Pilloti, I Arrighetti, B Veronese, J Busato, A Muzzo.

Scotland: C Rollie; E Musgrove, H Smith, H Nelson, L Harris; L Martin, S Law; M Kennedy, L Skeldon, L Smith, E Wassell, D McCormack, S Bonar, R Malcolm, J Konkel. Substitutes: J Rettie, S McMillan, K Dougan, S Cattigan, L McMillan, J Maxwell, E Sinclair, R Lloyd.

Scorers: Italy: Tries: Bettoni, Stefan, Franco, Rigoni. Cons: Sillari 3.

Scotland: Tries: Skeldon, Sinclair. Con: Skeldon.

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0 half-time, 24-0, 26-0, 26-5, 26-10, 26-12.

Referee: S Cox (England).

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About Stuart Bathgate 1390 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.