IT’S the story that anyone connected with women’s rugby in Scotland has been eager to write for a seven years and two weeks. A night of thick fog in Lasswade in February 2010 saw Scotland edge the French and register their last win in the women’s 6 Nations. A night of equally torrid weather – this time rain – in Cumbernauld in February 2017 saw a solid team performance result in a late 15-14 win for this generation of Scots, writes Isobel Irvine.
Prop Heather Lockhart was the remaining member of that 2010 team and, true to form, put in the hard yards when she came off the bench with 15 minutes to go.
Hot on the heels of storm Doris, which saw walls of snow piled up on the sidelines at Broadwood Stadium, the rain tipped down relentlessly in the central venue which has become home to Scotland Women during recent championships.
From the whistle wingers Rhona Lloyd and Megan Gaffney, scrum half Sarah Law, back row Jade Konkel and captain Lisa Martin bossed the attack. Given the conditions it was pick and go territory to gain ground. Wales were under the cosh from the get-go, a nifty chip ahead from stand-off Helen Nelson nearly putting the home side over the whitewash in the opening period.
Ten minutes of solid attack was mirrored by ten of solid defence by the Scots until, just shy of the 20 minute mark, Wales’ Carys Phillips caught the high ball and was driven over the line by the pack for the first score, the try converted by Elinor Snowsill.
At the restart, a fumble under the high ball from full back Chloe Rollie gave Wales continued advantage as they pressed forward in the second period of the first half. The Welsh, quicker at the breakdown, dominated the next ten minutes as Scotland lost pace and edge. However turnover ball soon saw Law chip intelligently ahead and Wales forced to defend the lineout. In a sublime move, Rollie raced up the wing, supported by Law, lock Debs McCormack and prop Tracy Balmer but the Scots were ultimately penalised at the breakdown for not releasing.
The closing ten minutes of the opening half saw the pace slow down ad Wales pick and go until a kick ahead from the visitors, the ball retrieved by Gaffney, saw her penalised for taking the ball into her own goal area. Shortly after, Wales were awarded a penalty try – their pack having applied pressure again and again on the line. Snowsill was successful with the conversion once again and the visitors went into a 14-0 lead.
As the half drew to a close, Rollie again made a devastating break but was halted short of the line. Into the last minute, Konkel picked from the back of the scrum to clear out wide and the ball found centre Lisa Thomson who birled over the line. A clinical conversion from Law saw the score 7-14 at the break.
The Scots were under the cosh at the start of the second half as Wales sliced through their defence. A trio of penalty offences by Wales saw the home side visiting the opposition 22 again but progress stalled when they were pinged for obstruction.
Wales’ driving maul caused the Scots to concede a penalty then no contest at the ensuing lineout put the Scots on the front foot again, thanks to intelligent play from Law.
After a kick from deep in their half to gain territory – courtesy of Nelson – the home side resumed pressure on the Welsh lineout.
It was the 56th minute before Scotland made their first substitution, Katie Dougan joining the front row in place of Lindsey Smith.
Great hands and some classy passing involving hooker Lana Skeldon, lock Emma Wassell, Thomson, Law, Konkel and Balmer saw the home side camped on the Welsh line just shy of 60 minutes. An instinctive flick pass back from Konkel out of the scrum found Law who put Lloyd into space to cross for Scotland’s second try, the extras just flying wide from Skeldon’s boot.
A clever clearance from Nelson resumed pressure on the visitors with a tackle by Martin stifling the Welsh break. Turnover ball was pounced on by flanker Jemma Forsyth as the Scots continued to apply pressure.
Elen Evans, for the visitors, attempted to work a line through the defence but was halted by flanker Louise McMillan. As Wales struggled to regroup, Thomson again saw the gap to leg it down the line, though was bundled into touch. Prop Lockhart and back-row Lyndsey O’Donnell added fresh legs to the fray as organised attack and solid defence encourage further Scotland progress.
A scrum 5m from the Welsh line, with seven minutes to go and Scotland trailing 12-14 saw the visitors clear to the Scots’ 22 and a lineout for the home side. On 76 minutes, Scotland won the penalty and immediately captain Martin pointed to the posts.
Scrum half Law calmly lined the ball up and hammered it between the posts with just over two minutes to go, putting Scotland ahead (15-14) for the first time in the match. A collective holding of breath was apparent in the home support as the Scots battled to keep possession. As the clock ticked into the red, the Welsh throw to the lineout was deemed squint, a Scotland scrum followed and, fittingly, Martin kicked the ball clear into the crowd.
A home win against a feisty Welsh outfit and a great platform on which to build their next performance when they face England.
Player of the match: Chloe Rollie
15. Chloe Rollie* (Murrayfield Wanderers). 14. Megan Gaffney (Edinburgh University) 13. Lisa Thomson* (Edinburgh University) 12. Lisa Martin* CAPTAIN (Murrayfield Wanderers) 11. Rhona Lloyd* (Edinburgh University) 10. Helen Nelson* (Murrayfield Wanderers) 9. Sarah Law* (Murrayfield Wanderers/Edinburgh University). 1. Tracy Balmer (Worcester) 2. Lana Skeldon (Hillhead Jordanhill) 3. Lindsey Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill) 4. Emma Wassell* (Murrayfield Wanderers) 5. Deborah McCormack (Aylesford Bulls) 6. Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead Jordanhill) 7. Louise McMillan* (Hillhead Jordanhill) 8. Jade Konkel** (Hillhead Jordanhill).
Replacements: 16. Lucy Park* (Murrayfield Wanderers) 17. Heather Lockhart (Hillhead Jordanhill) 18. Katie Dougan (Edinburgh University) 19. Sarah Bonar (Lichfield) 20. Lyndsay O’Donnell (Worcester) 21. Jenny Maxwell (Lichfield) 22. Eilidh Sinclair* (Murrayfield Wanderers) 23. Lauren Harris (Melrose) – 18 caps
* BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 2 player 2016/17
** BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy Stage 3 player 2016/17
Highlights from the third weekend of the Women’s Six Nations will be shown on BBC Two on Sunday evening and are available online.
Scotland Women 2017 Six Nations Fixtures
Friday 3 February Scotland Women 15-22 Ireland Women, Broadwood Stadium
Saturday 11 February France Women 55-0 Scotland Women, Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle
Friday 24 February Scotland Women 15-14 Wales Women, Broadwood Stadium
Saturday 11 March England Women v Scotland Women, Twickenham Stoop (kick-off 1pm)
Friday 17 March Scotland Women v Italy Women, Broadwood Stadium (kick-off 6.30pm)