Scotland Women 7 - 17 France
Women's Rugby World Cup, Surrey Sports Park
Early afternoon Surrey sunshine was replaced by gloomy skies, a fierce cross wind and intermittent downpours, reminiscent of France's visit to Lasswade in this year's Six Nations. Today's scoreline, however, did not reflect Scotland's February defeat of their Rugby World Cup pool opponents. Despite a strong second-half performance - with a storming Lucy Millard try, converted by Nicola Halfpenny - the Scots couldn't come back from the slip-ups of the first forty minutes, leaving them with just too much work to do.
Scotland captain Lynne Reid said: "We went into the second half believing we could still put in a strong performance and we built some good phases of play. But at this level of competition, you make mistakes and your opponents will capitalise on them."
A match report, audio comment from head coach Gary Parker is below. Photos from the match can be found on the Scotland Women web site gallery
Frustated by the French, from the whistle, it was the French who put the first score on the board after four minutes.Having kept the Scots hemmed in the 22, France won possession after the Scots kicked the ball straight into touch. France won the lineout and ran the ball into Scottish territory. Stand-off Gaelle Mignot produced a wonderful offload to the direct and strong running full-back, Elodie Poublan, who crossed for the try. The conversion attempt, from Aurélie Bailon, went wide to make it 0-5.
As the wind really whipped up, it made life difficult for the Scots who battled to get into their own 22. A penalty opportunity for France, for Scotland holding on to the ball, saw the kick from Bailon go wide. The miss did nothing to dampen the French enthusiasm and drive, however, as they continued to impose their game on the Scots.
After fifteen minutes, the pressure was converted into points when an impressive break by the winger, Céline Allainmat, was clinically offloaded inside to flanker Marie Charlotte Hebel who crossed for the try, Bailon missing the conversion.
Midway through the first half, the Scots picked up their game as centre Lucy Millard made a break for the halfway line, booting the ball which cannoned into a French player and rebounded for a Scotland lineout. That spark ignited the Scots into a much more positive period of play as they piled on the pressure and caused the French to make errors, including a fortunate (for the Scots) penalty conceded en route to the tryline following a terrific try-saving tackle, from Millard, only minutes earlier.
Just before half time, however, France won the ball and sent it wide, straight into the grasp of centre Sandrine Agricole who wove through the gap and crossed the line, the try successfully converted by Bailon, registering a half time score of 0-17.
Off the half-time blocks fighting, the Scots registered their first points in the opening minute as quick lineout ball to hooker, Sarah-Louise Walker, found its way to Millard (pictured below) who churned the turf around the French to score, the try converted by Nicola Halfpenny to make it 7-17.
Minutes later winger Celia Hawthorn was edged over the touchline, en route surely to the tryline, with a knee injury ending her Test outing and she was subsequently replaced by Katy Green.
The Scots continued to pile on the pressure and defend to the hilt, with notable kicking from Erin Kerr matched by impressive runs from replacement Green up the wing. Threatening to score on more than one occasion, the Scots just couldn't find the clinical finish, however, required to push up the scoreline.
With five minutes to go, French prop Nadege Lefeuvre was yellow carded. The opportunity to add three points was missed, however, when Halfpenny pulled the penalty short. A try-saving tackle by Millard saw her come off the worse, to be replaced by Stephanie Johnston, but with only a few passes of play to go, the final scoreline stood at 7-17.
As the Scots now look to regroup prior to their final pool game against Sweden (28 August, kick-off 12noon) listen to head coach Gary Parker's thoughts on the game:
Nicola Halfpenny (Melrose); Celia Hawthorn (Edinburgh University), Lucy Millard (Team Northumbria), Veronica Fitzpatrick (Royal High Cougars), Lynsey Douglas (London Wasps); Erin Kerr (London Wasps), Louise Dalgliesh (Royal High Cougars); Heather Lockhart (Hillhead / Jordanhill), Sarah-Louise Walker (Watsonians), Beth Dickens (Murrayfield Wanderers), Susie Brown (Richmond), Lindsay Wheeler (Darlington Mowden Park), Lynne Reid CAPTAIN (Royal High Cougars), Ruth Slaven (Murrayfield Wanderers), Donna Kennedy (Worcester)
Gillian McCord (Royal High Cougars) (on for Dickens), Alison Macdonald (Royal High Cougars), Louise Moffat (Murrayfield Wanderers), Rosalind Murphy (Edinburgh University), Tanya Griffith (Royal High Cougars), Stephanie Johnston (Hillhead / Jordanhill) (on for Millard), Katy Green (Murrayfield Wanderers) (on for Hawthorn)
Elodie Poublan; Céline Allainmat, Sandrine Agricole, Lucille Godiveau, Caroline Ladagnous; Aurélie Bailon, Marie Alice Yahe; Stéphanie Loyer, Gaelle Mignot, Céline Barthelemy, Clémence Audebert, Cyrielle Bouisset, Amandine Vaupre, Marie Charlotte Hebel, Sandra Rabier CAPTAIN
Clémence Ollivier, Nadége Lefeuvre (YC), Manon Andre (unused), Claire Canal, Stéphanie Provost, Audrey Parra, Fanny Horta
Referee: David Keane (IRFU)
Assistant referee: Sarah Corrigan (ARU)
Assistant referee: Claire Daniels (RFU)
4th official: Andrea Ttofa (RFU)
5th official: Sarah Cox (RFU)