Scotland Women put up a fierce battle at Lasswade this afternoon against an experienced Ireland side who they held at 5-all for most of the game before some lapses in the final quarter saw them defeated 5-22.
Head coach Karen Findlay said: "I was really pleased with the girls, there was a massive improvement in our defence and pattern. We got narrow on four occasions and that cost us dearly, in the end."
Read on for a match report, to listen to Findlay's view of the game and to listen to prop Heather Lockhart on her 50th cap fixture.
Picture: Centre Annabel Sergeant charges through the Irish defence
Listen to Karen Findlay on Scotland's much improved performance here
Heather Lockhart talks about her 50th cap and looks ahead to England
Findlay added: "It was a good day for the girls to show that they have got the ability to defend and to defend well, and that when we get the chance to score out wide we can score. Our shape and our organisation was night and day better than Wales."
Leading Scotland on to the pitch, at a sunny but breezy Lasswade, in front of a packed stand, was prop Heather Lockhart, on the occasion of her 50th cap. The purposeful team walk, reminiscent of the 1990 Grand Slam Scotland men, was the only time the pace slowed below full-on for the entire afternoon, however.
Rooted in the Scotland half for the first five minutes, it was the visitors who put the first points on the board when centre Lynne Cantwell crossed for a try after six minutes, the conversion attempt from full back Niamh Briggs going wide: 0-5
The restart saw Cantwell's attempt to repeat her break thwarted by Scotland wing Katy Green who tackled her into touch. Good pressure from the home saw the tide of possession turn in Scotland's favour and an impressive piece of teamwork, featuring centre Steph Johnston, stand off Lisa Martin and wing Lauren Harris saw the latter cross the line to level the score, the five-pointer being Harris' debut try for Scotland. On course for the uprights, the conversion attempt from Dalgliesh was picked up by the wind and wobbled off to the right of the posts.
The pressure continued for the Scots with a series of pick and goes, big kicks and heroice defence ensuring that the majority of the action boiled up around the Irish 22. Tough hits from props Lockhart and Balmer saw off the challenge from Briggs while the boot of Martin and steals from scrum half Louise Dalgliesh kept the ball firmly in in Ireland's half and the score at 5-all going at the half-time whistle.
Half time: 5-5
The second half started at a similarly cracking pace with Ireland making the first substitution of the match after 50 minutes. Very much against the previous run of play, and following some superb tackling from Susie Brown and Ruth Slaven, Ireland sucked in the Scots and took advantage of space out wide to score a second try, courtesy of centre Geraldine Rea. A further conversion attempt from Briggs was off target.
The Scots responded immediately with a flurry of pick and goes and much scrabbling just short of the Irish line, the sun now low in the skies causing a few issues as they tried to focus on levelling the score.
Looking for fresh legs to continue the pressure, Scotland made a double substitution in the forwards, McDonald and Forsyth replacing Smith and Veale at hooker and flanker respectively. Minutes later Ireland were down to fourteen players when try scorer Rea was yellow carded for not rolling away and Scotland should have leapt at the advantage.
The sin binning fired up the visitors, however, who linked up well, saw the gap and Briggs crossed the whitewash for a second time after 66 minutes, the try unconverted.
Going into the last ten minutes, neither side let up and the frantic pace continued. Four Scottish substitutions and five from Ireland within the space of 90 seconds, five minutes from time, were punctuated by a further opportunistic try from Cantwell, her second of the day converted this time by Briggs. The final score of 5-22 did however, belie the performance of Scotland who showed just how much progress this new young side has made in the last six weeks.
Scotland Women v Ireland Women, Saturday 26 February at Lasswade
15 Victoria Blakebrough (Richmond)
14 Lauren Harris (Aberdeenshire Quines)
13 Annabel Sergeant (Dundee University)
12 Steph Johnston (Hillhead / Jordanhill)
11 Katy Green (Murrayfield Wanderers)
10 Lisa Martin (Murrayfield Wanderers)
9 Louise Dalgliesh (RHC Cougars)
1 Heather Lockhart (Hillhead / Jordanhill)
2 Lindsey Smith (Hillhead / Jordanhill)
3 Tracy Balmer (Worcester)
4 Rosalind Murphy (Edinburgh University)
5 Lindsay Wheeler (Darlington Mowden Sharks)
6 Charlotte Veale (London Wasps)
7 Ruth Slaven (Murrayfield Wanderers)
8 Susie Brown (Richmond)
16 Alison MacDonald (RHC Cougars) (on for Smith, 60m)
17 Elizabeth Dickens (Murrayfield Wanderers) (on for Balmer, 74m)
18 Anna Swan (Edinburgh University) (on for Brown, 74m)
19 Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead / Jordanhill) (on for Veale, 60m)
20 Tess Forsberg (Richmond) (on for Slaven, 74m)
21 Laura Steven (Murrayfield Wanderers) (on for Sergeant, 74m)
22 Lisa Ritchie (Carlisle Cougars) (unused)
Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile), Geraldine Rea (Highfield/Munster), Mairead Kelly (UL Bohemians/Munster); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (Bristol/Munster), Emer McManamly (Blackrock/Leinster), Heather O'Brien (Highfield/Munster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements (all used): Stacey Kennedy (City of Derry/Ulster), Lauren Day (Waterloo/Ulster), Deirdre O'Brien (Blackrock/Leinster), Carol Staunton (Galwegians/Connacht), Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exile), Gill Nolan (St. Mary's/Leinster), Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Leinster).
Referee: Claire Daniels (England)
RBS Player of the Match: Lynne Cantwell (Ireland)
For more information and updates on Scotland Women, log on to the web site at www.scottishrugby.org
Scotland Women Six Nations fixtures 2011
Friday 4 February, France Women 53 - 3 Scotland Women, Viry-Châtillon
Sunday 13 February, Scotland Women 12 - 41 Wales Women, Burnbrae
Saturday 26 February, Scotland Women 5 - 22 Ireland Women, Lasswade
Sunday 13 March, England Women v Scotland Women (follows the men’s match) Twickenham, kick-off 5.15pm
Sunday 20 March, Scotland Women v Italy Women, Meggetland, kick-off 3pm