WXV2: Scotland win big against Japan but now face anxious wait

Third bonus-point victory may not be enough to lift trophy if Italy win big over USA today

Emma Orr
Emma Orr scores her second try - Scotland's sixth - against Japan. Image: Johan Rynners/World Rugby/Getty Images.

Scotland 38
Japan 7


SCOTLAND made it three bonus-point wins from three games in WXV2, in the process equalling their best-ever run of six victories in a row in all competitions. They now face an agonising wait until tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon to learn if that perfect match-point tally of 15 is enough for them to win the tournament itself.

Italy, who have 10 points from their first two games, play the USA at 4pm tomorrow at the same venue, the Athlone Stadium in Cape Town. If they claim a bonus-point victory against the States, the matter will be decided on points difference.

The Italians are currently +31, while Scotland are now +55. Five match points and a win by 25 points or more would be enough for the title to be snatched away from Bryan Easson’s squad.

If, by some quirk of fate, match points and points differential are identical, try difference will be the next criterion. Scotland have finished their programme with a try count of +10; Italy’s is +4.

 “The ball is in the Italians’ court now,” head coach Bryan Easson said after the victory, which followed wins on the previous two Fridays over hosts South Africa and the US.  “I thought we coped with the pressure of today really well. Now the pressure is on the Italians. 

“We’ll just sit back and have a couple of quiet ones tonight, then we’ll watch the game tomorrow and what will be will be.”  

Scotland have won six on the bounce twice previously  – in 1998 and 2001. But this run has been more remarkable than either, because it has followed hard on the heels of a 12-match losing run.

The last of that dismal sequence of defeats was a 55-0 loss to France. Somehow Scotland recovered from that to beat Italy six days later, then they rounded off their Six Nations campaign with a win over Ireland. They beat Spain in a friendly shortly before flying out to South Africa, where they have continued their progress with some performances of impressive self-belief.

They needed that quality against the Japanese in a first half which saw them playing into a strong wind. Japan were not nearly as physical at the breakdown as the Springboks or the US, but they are a better footballing side. They pinned Scotland back in that first 40 with some intelligent kicks, their slick passing always stretched their opponents’ defence, and for much of the contest they were able to nullify one of the Scots’ key weapons, the lineout maul.

In the end, though, they managed to breach that defence only once, when Iroha Nagata slipped in between Rachel McLachlan and Francesca McGhie to touch down with seven minutes on the clock. Ayasa Otsuka added the conversion, and Japan were soon back on the attack again, where they remained for much of the first half-hour.

Steadily, however, Scotland got on top, smothering the Japanese offence. They should have equalised after 32 minutes only for Chloe Rollie to knock on from an Emma Orr pass, but eventually they did level, three minutes into time added on.

When player of the match Helen Nelson won a penalty in front of the Japanese posts, the Scots pack opted to scrum. Japan conceded a penalty at that set-piece, and then again. When they did it for a third time, American referee Kat Roche had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try – and showing loosehead prop Sachiko Kato a yellow card.

Nor did Scotland hesitate to take advantage of the extra player at the start of the second half, as Emma Orr touched down within three minutes after a big carry by Lisa Thomson. Nelson converted.

Japan continued to mount a spirited defence and were by no means a spent force with ball in hand, but Scotland’s superior power was increasingly evident. When a penalty was sent to the corner, Christine Belisle and Jade Konkel carried close, and then Rollie put Coreen Grant in at the left corner for an unconverted try.

The bonus-point score came just past the hour, and was finished off by Lana Skeldon after another multi-phase attack off a lineout. Nelson added the two points, and at 26-7 the outcome of the match was not in doubt.

Sarah Bonar – like Grant not long off the bench after missing the first two games through injury – got her team’s fifth after intercepting on halfway and just outstripping the cover defence. Meryl Smith, on for Nelson, converted this time.

Then, with barely a minute remaining, Orr burst through for her second as advantage was being played for a collapsed maul. Smith’s conversion attempt came back off  a post, and although Scotland went in search of another score right from the restart, they were unable to add to their tally.

Scorers – 

Scotland: Tries: penalty try, Orr 2, Grant, Skeldon, Bonar. Cons: Nelson 2, Smith.

Japan: Try: Nagata. Con: Otsuka.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-5, 0-7, 7-7 half-time, 12-7, 14-7, 19-7, 24-7, 26-7, 31-7, 33-7, 38-7.

Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, F McGhie (C Grant 45); H Nelson (M Smith 62), M McDonald (C Mattinson 48); L Bartlett (A Young 65), L Skeldon (E Martin 74), C Belisle (L Cockburn 65), E Wassell, L McMillan (S Bonar 48), R Malcolm (captain), R McLachlan (J Konkel 48), E Gallagher.

Japan: S Nishimura (M Yamamoto 56); M Matsumara (K Yasuo 51), H Hirotsu, K Kobayashi (N Ando 27), K Imakugi; A Otsuka,M Tsukui; S Kato (H Komaki 61), K Taniguchi (A Kuge 65), Y Sadaka (N Nagata 43), M Kawamura (J Nduka 54), O Yoshimura, S Korai, I Nagata (captain), S Saito (A Nagai 54). 

Yellow card: Japan: Kato 40+3.

Referee: K Roche (USA).

About Stuart Bathgate 1360 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. Great 2nd half performance. Really impressed by their ball retention and work at the breakdown where they went through multiple phases until something opened. Japan weren’t too bad either which made for a good game

  2. Sooo….pathways open to young scottish players developed in….checks notes…. Scotland. The absolute opposite of the Dodson master ‘plan’ and it brings success. There must be a lesson in there somewhere…. probably too much of an ask to seriously compete with French and English at this point but 3rd in 6n is a realistic target and hopefully land a few telling blows in the other games. Shame the fat controller didn’t put his hand in his pocket before the RWC. Had been concerned about losing the likes of elite players like Smith but wow the youngsters have excelled. Orr will be utterly world class and we have an incredible back three now.

  3. Fantastic achievement regardless of the final outcome. Well done ladies. It just shows what can be done.

    GT should be looking over his shoulder.

  4. Let’s hope that the Goddesses of sport are smiling down on us….whatever the outcome they should be proud of their achievements.

  5. Well Done Mark Dodson. This crucial investment into the woman’s game at the right time is paying dividends.

  6. What a turnaround from 12 straight defeats. Emma Orr was brilliant to watch again. Great job – here’s hoping we wind up on top having done all we can at our end


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