With Storm Ciara puting paid to Sunday’s scheduled match at Scotstoun, a quick bit of rearranging by Scottish Rugby meant that could go ahead on Monday at BT Murrayfield. Whatever theprojected weather risks in Glasgow were, it’s difficult to conclude that conditions – other than high winds – could have been worse than what turned up at the National stadium.
The question for this one, wasn’t whether England would win, but by how much would they win. That might seem unfair on the Scots after their performance against Ireland the previous week, but is purely a reflection on how far ahead of the rest the top two or three nations are currently.
Recieving the kick off in bright sunshine, Scotland enjoyed a few minutes of possession at the start, but, as soon as England got hands on the ball, the rolled the Scots back with their bigger pack and, four minutes in, scored the first try through Sarah Lily for 0-5, then Emily Scarratt for 0-7.
A couple of minutes later, they were back taunting the line, but Scotland defended well and cleared.
The home side then turned defence into attack as, first, Chloe Rollie made a strong break, followed on by Jade Konkel, but the ball was turned over and the visitors resumed their game plan.
18 minutes in and still 0-7 thanks to some good defence from the Scots, a penalty gave Scarratt the chance to increase the lead. The World Player of the Year knocked the ball over for 0-10 and was three points closer to being the hoghest points’ scorer for England Women.
For the next 10 minutes, or so, the match was fairly evenly poised, with both sides both winning and losing possession, but playing, mostly in Scottish territory with the occasional, promising break from the Scots.
However, once the England machine got going it was soon try number two. Spreading the attack wide, England took advantage of the home side’s slightly narrow defence and the final pass from Scarratt put wing, Jess Breach through for the score and 0-15 after 31 minutes.
Once again, Scotland returned to the fray and put in some promising running and driving plays, with Rhona Lloyd coming in off her wing to cause a bit of ‘concern’ for the opposition. Konkel and Lana Skeldon were also beginning to come into their game, driving the attack forward.
But the visitors’ defence held and turned over a couple of balls, but chose to kick clear rather than run the ball back.
The third try for England was, as they say a ‘stoater’. Fielding a kick from deep, first Zoe Harrison, then Emily Scott get the ball across the pitch before Abby Dow took possession just inside her 10 metre line and fired through a gap to cross halfway.
And then she just carried on dodging, weaving and handing-off her way up the pitch to, finally evade the clutches of Rollie for a superb score and 0-20. Scarratt then brought that up to 0-22 with the conversion.
And then the snow came. With a wet ball and cold hands, there were a few more handling errors from both sides, so the score remained at 0-22 until the break.
With the weather continuing to deteriorate, Scotland kicked off to, as it turned out face more of the same.
The first try of the half was, more or less, a repeat of the second with the ball slung wide ahead of the Scots ability to get across and Emily Scott slid over for the points and 0-27.
Five minutes later, try five was on the board. This one was a bit different as it came off a cross-field kick from Harrison which was successfully competed for by Emily Scott for the score. Scarratt then converted from the line for 0-34.
By this time, the Scots were being forced onto the defensive more and more and, the introduction of fresh legs on the English side, just compounded the matter.
Another try by Dow for 0-39 on 56 minutes was followed up by the seventh, but disallowed, ‘score’ a few minutes later.
The Scottish scrum had been holding their own, despite immense pressure, for a fair bit of the match, but the English size and power had been coming to the fore for a while and size meant everything for the eighth try as the powered the Scots back, with Sarah Hunter picking up and blasting over from the base. Scarratt then converted for 0-46.
With time running down, Scotland enjoyed a minor resurrgence to put a bit of pressure on the English defence, but with the weather making life difficult, coupled with some injuries for both sides, this period stuttered to a halt and England clear.
With just over three minutes to go, another English kick is booted deep into Scottish territory and into touch. Rollie quickly gathered tha ball and took the throw in to ‘herself’ only to be caught out by the conditions and cold hands.
Her fumble was pounced on by the chasing Claudia MacDonald who played football up to, and over the line for the final try and 0-51.
Scarratt then converted to take her total points tally, in an England shirt, to 539 and the final match score to 0-53 on a day where the weather swung from sunny and dry to snowfall which made end-to-end vision ‘difficult’.
The match drew to the fore the gulf between the top teams and ‘the rest’. Scotland lie 11th in World rankings, but, once you’re away from the top three, maybe four, the quality – but, crucially, not the determination or will to succeed – falls off quite quickly.
Images from the match will appear here over the next few days