Scotland’s Women opened their 2022 TikTok Women’s 6 Nations campaign against, perennial champions, England at Edinburgh’s DAM Health Stadium on Saturday.
Having recently qualified for the 2021 World Cup to be held this year in New Zealand, the Scots were hoping for a good performance against the auld enemy, with even the most fervent supporters expecting England to win by a fair margin.
The early pressure, however, came from the Scots as they ran the ball back to the opposition from the start making advances into English territory and looking good for a score.
The first chance came after five minutes via a penalty out in front, but Helen Nelson’s attempt just drifted wide.
That was a wake up call for the visitors and they soon got into their stride pushing deep into the home 22.
Winning a penalty close in, they went for a quick tap and No. 4, Rosie Galligan, crashed over for the points. With the conversion from centre, Emily Scarratt, it was 7-0 after 11 minutes.
Three minutes later it was 12-0. Easily advancing up to the Scots’ 5-metre line, the big English pack got to work and scored ‘their’ second try through flanker, Poppy Cleall.
An early penalty from the restart found the Scots on the front foot and the touch-finder from Lisa Thomson gave the a line out on the right.
Winning the ball, the home side quickly shifted the ball across the line, out pacing the English defence and the final ball from outside centre, Hannah Smith put Chloe Rollie through a gap and over for the try. The conversion was missed so it was 5-12 the England after 18 minutes.
The celebrations didn’t last long as England scored two quick tries in succession a few minutes later. This time it was the back division who took the glory as first, Heather Cowell took advantage of some nice work from stand off, Helena Rowland to go over in the right corner.
This was followed in by a long distance score from wing, Abigail Dow, from just inside her own half. With Scarratt’s conversion of the Dow’s try, the score was now out to 5-26 after 27 minutes.
With their tails up, England were now dominating their opponents and the inevitable was delayed for a few minutes by a try-saving tackle on the right by Scotland’s 9, Leanne Infanti, but the were playing under advantage, so play came back from a line out.
Quick ball and a rolling maul saw 7, Marlie Packer, driven over for the try, but, with Scarratt missing the conversion, the score moved on to 5-31.
Scotland came from that with all guns blazing and put huge pressure on the English defence, but could make little progress into the 22.
The final score of the half came from the visitors as they broke clear in overtime, sending Packer through a huge gap for her second, and England’s sixth, try of the half. Scarratt’s conversion then took the points tally out to 5-38 as the teams went in for the break.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were dominated by the Scots as they played out of their skins to keep England pinned back for most of the period.
They thought that just reward had come their way in the 49th minute via a second try from a close-in line out, but the referee went to the TMO and, a couple of hundred looks, later, it was deemed to have been a knock-on off the top, so the points were rescinded.
Four minutes later, England came up with another try. Driving the ball forward through the pack, a neat kick over the top from Rowland was followed in by inside centre, Holly Aitchison. She went straight over the top of Rollie to dot down behind the posts for try No. 7. Another conversion from Scarratt saw the score out to 5-45 with still 15 minutes left to play.
Once again, Scotland came back, but England were too powerful in defence for them to make much progress and, just over 10 minutes later, try No 8 was on the board as a driving maul powered Connie Powell over for the, converted, try and 5-52.
While the home side were still wondering, England came straight back from the restart and a series of rucks along the line, left Packer with a short, but tough, drive over for 5-57.
Scotland enjoyed a brief period of dominance around 70 minutes as they hammered away at the English line, but, once again, the defence was too good and the match was closed off by the visitors for their 5-57 win who, once again, looked nailed on for the title.
Big defeat, yes, but the score line probably doesn’t reflect on the effort that the Scots put in to play England at their own game at times and they also defended well – up to a point – and pressurised the opposition try line to give the 4,000 crowd something to cheer about. Hopefully, they can carry this forward to the rest of the campaign and give the home support some hope for the World Cup.
Images from the match will appear here over the next few days.