WXV2: mighty maul gives Scotland bonus-point win over South Africa

Four of the team's five tries came from the lineout as the home side failed to make the most of their physical prowess

Scotland kicked off their WXV2 campaign with a win over hosts South Africa. Image courtesy: World Rugby
Scotland kicked off their WXV2 campaign with a win over hosts South Africa. Image courtesy: World Rugby

Scotland 31

South Africa 17


IT WAS NOT, as captain Rachel Malcolm and head coach Bryan Easson were quick to admit, the perfect performance from Scotland. But it was, surely, the ideal start to WXV2 as the visitors ran in five tries en route to their fourth consecutive win.

South Africa were dominant in the scrum for most of the game and boasted a muscularity that stretched the Scots defence to breaking point and occasionally beyond. But the prowess in that set-piece was more than offset by an inability to compete in the line-out  a defect that allowed Scotland to score four of their five tries from mauls following kicks to touch.

That supremacy in the line-out was perhaps all the more surprising given that Sarah Bonar, imperious in that department against Spain two weeks ago, was a late call-off due to a back spasm. While Eva Donaldson came on to the bench, Louise McMillan was promoted to the starting line-up,  and together with Emma Wassell ensured that Bonar was hardly missed  although she should be passed fit to play against the United States next week.

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Scotland did their best to play flowing rugby from the start, but were invariably frustrated in their attempts, which was one factor in Malcolm’s verdict that her team had been well below their best. Nonetheless, the fact that they still found a way to win despite some difficulties is testament to their growing maturity as a team.

 “It was far from our best, but that’s the sign of a good team, finding a way to win in those really tough games,” the skipper said. “That was incredibly tough. South Africa came out fighting. We knew that the first half in particular was probably going to be a real battle, and I think it absolutely was. They brought a huge amount of physicality and put us under massive pressure at different points of the game.

“Situations like that previously would probably have been a bit of a banana skin for us. But we’ve taken a massive step forward in terms of our decision-making.”

After the home side had gone ahead with a penalty from Libbie Janse van Rensburg, Evie Gallagher got the try production line rolling after 25 minutes, finishing off with relative ease at the back of the pack.

The try was unconverted, so when Aseza Hele broke through for her team’s first try and Janse van Rensburg added the extras, the Springboks were back in front at 10-5. In the closing minutes of the half, however, Lana Skeldon struck twice from mauls. Helen Nelson converted the first, giving her team a 17-10 lead at the break. 

That became 24-10 quarter of an hour into the second period when Leah Bartlett claimed the bonus-point try  from a maul, of course  and substitute Meryl Smith converted. 

South Africa stayed in touch thanks to a Roseline Botes try, converted by stand-off Janse van Rensburg, with 15 minutes to go. And, after a Francesca McGhie score was chalked off for a forward pass, momentum appeared to be with the Springboks.

But then the strength of character to which Malcolm referred took over. The Scottish defence kept its discipline under heavy pressure, and with five minutes left Lisa Thomson got her team’s fifth try after bursting through from midfield. Smith’s conversion completed the scoring.

That run of four victories would hardly have been plausible earlier this year, when a Six Nations defeat by France was Scotland’s 12th consecutive loss in all competitions. Malcolm is convinced that her team can keep making substantial progress, but insisted they would keep their feet on the ground as they prepare for next Friday’s meeting with the USA.  

I think this group can go on and achieve some incredible things,” she added. “But I think we just have to focus on the next game. The last time we played the USA they came out on top.”


Teams –

Scotland: C Rollie; R Lloyd, E Orr, L Thomson, F McGhie (E Musgrove 72); H Nelson (M Smith 51), M McDonald (C Mattinson 51); L Bartlett (A Young 65), L Skeldon (E Martin 12-24, 78), C Belisle (L Cockburn 65), E Wassell, L McMillan (E Donaldson 78), R Malcolm (captain), R McLachlan (J Konkel 51, R McLachlan 65-75), E Gallagher. 

South Africa: C Qawe; M Samboya (M Zulu 46), V Grain, P Nyanda, S Hess; L Janse van Rensburg, T Kinsey (R Potgieter 57); S Charlie (Y Ngxingolo 59), L Gwala (R Botes 59), B Latsha (captain, A Schonert 59), V Ubisi (M Booi 59), D Lochner, L Dumke, S Mcatshulwa (C Jacobs 59), A Hele (M Gunter 51).

Referee: Natarsha Ganley (New Zealand).


Scorers – 

Scotland: Tries: Gallagher, Skeldon 2, Bartlett, Thomson. Cons: Nelson, Smith 2.

South Africa: Tries: Hele, Botes. Cons: Janse van Rensburg 2. Pen: Janse van Rensburg.  

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-3, 5-3, 5-8, 5-10, 10-10, 12-10, 17-10 half-time, 22-10, 24-10, 24-15, 24-17, 29-17, 31-17.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1414 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. To put Drew’s comment in perspective, I have little opportunity to follow Scottish women’s rugby but it’s great and long overdue that women’s sport is getting any exposure and even better that Scotland got the win. As a dad whose daughter plays football every weekend, I look forward to the day when women’s sport in general is on an equal footing to men and there’s a huge proportion of the population who need engaging in the many benefits of competitive sport. Comments like Drew’s just help to perpetuate the old fashioned view that it’s somehow inappropriate for women to compete in a physical contest. Please don’t be a dinosaur.

  2. Super result in South Africa against the home team. Sounds like a tough game but they found a way to win which is what you need and keeps up a great run of results. Women’s rugby doing well from a small player base.

  3. What a great result in no small part helped by a couple of players from Hawick-the town that just keeps producing international rugby players. A facile comment from “Drew” I have to say. Well done the ladies-they have as much right to column space as anyone else.

  4. Well done to them, fantastic result that will give a bit of momentum and confidence for the forthcoming games.

    • Far better without your anal comment. Very few comments on the mens Premiership does that mean there is no interest in that!! 🐻

    • Drew, not quite sure what you try to achieve on these pages. Maybe better to troll somewhere else. Great win for the Scotland women. A fine start to this competition and delighted to Evie Gallagher getting the first try

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