Scotland Women showed marked improvement at Lasswade this evening, posting their best result against England Women since 2008.Though losing 47-0 to a highly experienced England side, fresh from a double victory over RWC holders New Zealand, there were plenty of positives to take from a plucky performance.
Head coach Karen Findlay said:"We're significantly fitter than we were 12 months ago, we've got depth now in our front five, we were still running hard at 80 minutes and still playing rugby which, for me, were massive positives."
Listen to Karen's thoughts on the game, below: click here for the photo gallery
Photo: Louise Dalgliesh won her 50th cap against England today
Click here to listen to Karen
A packed house at Lasswade braved the chilly evening to cheer on the national side.
Said Findlay: "We had outstanding support from Lasswade here tonight. A fantastic regional programme of girls' rugby went on here today and everybody stayed on to watch this game. It makes a fantastic difference to the women's game and the players who are putting in all that effort."
In celebration of her 50th cap, Scotland scrum half Louise Dalgliesh was piped on to the pitch ahead of her team mates, the game kicking off at a furious pace.
England dominated during the first ten minutes of play with clean ball and clinical finishing resulting in tries for Packer (4m) and Staniford (6m), both conversions flying wide from the boot of captain McLean, a pattern that was to repeat itself during the evening.
The Scots then found their feet and not only parried the attack but drove well into England's half. The scoreline stood until 28 minutes when a break from England and an offload to Scarrett saw Staniford cross the line again. Two minutes later, Burnfield added a fourth score, McLean adding the extras for her only conversion of the night. Merchant secured try number five, to make the score 27-0 at half-time.
The second half saw an even more determined Scotland run out, their solid defensive work forcing England to work much harder. Brave, thumping tackles from Lindsay Wheeler had her worryingly hit the deck, but the number 8 was soon back on her feet to rejoin the fray with relish.
Four second-half tries from England (through Merchant 47m, Hunt 52m, Scarrett 57m and Noel-Smith 72m) belied the all-round efforts from the Scots, a searing run from Sarah Dixon causing some panic in the England ranks.
Although the final score was 47-0 to England, Scotland should take plenty of heart from a performance vastly improved from the same fixture last year, and the previous year, with a young developing squad who are clearly fitter, faster and more prepared for the challenge.
RBS Player of the Match: Michaela Staniford (London Wasps)
Referee: Sherry Trumbull (Can)
15 Stephanie Johnston (RHC Cougars)
14 Katy Green (Murrayfield Wanderers)
13 Laura Steven (Murrayfield Wanderers) (vice captain)
12 Lisa Martin (Murrayfield Wanderers)
11 Sarah Dixon (Stirling County)
10 Tanya Griffith (RHC Cougars)
9 Louise Dalgliesh (RHC Cougars)
1 Heather Lockhart (Hillhead/Jordanhill)
2 Sarah Quick (Murrayfield Wanderers)
3 Tracy Balmer (Worcester) (captain)
4 Anna Swan (RHC Cougars)
5 Jemma Forsyth (Hillhead/Jordanhill)
6 Charlotte Veale (London Wasps)
7 Ruth Slaven (Murrayfield Wanderers)
8 Lindsay Wheeler (Richmond)
16 Lindsey Smith (Darlington Mowden Park) (for Lockhart, 70m)
17 Suzanne McKerlie-Hex (Murrayfield Wanderers)(for Quick, 70m)
18 Beth Dickens (Murrayfield Wanderers)(for Balmer, 72m)
19 Kath Muir (RAF)
20 Tess Forsberg (Richmond)(for Veale, 46m)
21 Lisa Ritchie (Carlisle)
22 Caroline Collie (OA Saints)(for Martin, 69m)
15 Kay Wilson (Bristol)
14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
12 Rachael Burford (Richmond)
11 Michaela Staniford (London Wasps)
10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (C)
9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
1 Claire Purdy (London Wasps)
2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
5 Harriet Millar-Mills (Lichfield)
6 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens)
7 Marlie Packer (Bristol)
8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield) (VC)
16 Amy Turner (Richmond)(for Fleetwood, 68m)
17 Laura Keates (Worcester)(for |Hemming, 68m)
18 Emily Braund (Lichfield)(for Gallacher, 61m)
19 Isabelle Noel-Smith (Bristol)(for Hunter,61m)
20 Georgina Rozario (Lichfield)(for Hunt, 68m)
21 Ceri Large (Worcester)(for McLean, 61m)
22Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)(for Wilson, 68m)
Scotland Women's RBS 6 Nations fixtures are as below, with free entry to the home matches.
Sunday 5 February, Scotland 0 - 47 England, Lasswade RFC
Sunday 12 February, Wales v Scotland, Cross Keys RFC, kick-off 1pm
Saturday 25 February, Scotland v France, Stirling County RFC, kick-off 2pm
Friday 9 March, Ireland v Scotland, Ashbourne RFC, kick-off 7.30pm
Sunday 18 March, Italy v Scotland, Rovato Stadium, Brescia, kick-off 2.30pm