Maxton reflects on France and anticipates Broadwood home support

Determined to build on their improved performance against Italy in the autumn, Scotland Women kicked off their 2015 6 Nations campaign with a tough ask, facing last year’s tournament winners and World Cup semi-finalists France.

With four new caps in the starting XV – both centres and wings – and only a handful of the side remaining from the last visit to France, when Scotland were on the wrong side of a 76-0 defeat, it was a team at the start of transition that took to the pitch in La-Roche-sur-Yon this afternoon.

Although the scoreline was a step-change improvement on the previous two years, the Scots still didn’t trouble their side of the scoreboard, much to the frustration of all involved.

After the match head coach Jules Maxton said:

“One of the things we talked about last year was reducing our deficit – which we definitely have done – but we’re disappointed that we didn’t manage to get points on the board and that’s something we’ll look at in our analysis tonight.

 “We’ll look closely at what went wrong and how we can fix that next week.”

Watch the full interview here.

A sunny but bitterly cold – with temperatures reduced by a wind chill – afternoon in the Loire saw the Scots run out before a full house of partisan French support.

Despite some clinical tackling, notably by stand-off Lisa Martin, and a good amount of possession, it was the home side who crossed first, after four minutes, Grand credited with the score which was converted by fullback Tremouliere.

As the loose ball hurtled over the line and a pile of bodies from both sides threw themselves on the ball five minutes later, the TMO subsequently ruled that the French 15 had touched down – the try was unconverted – before she added a penalty on 20 minutes, to put the home side 15-0 ahead.

Issues with the scrum saw the referee take time out to talk to both captains and front rows and composure in the pack was regained. However just shy of the half-hour hooker Lana Skeldon retired injured, with a head knock, to be replaced by Sarah Quick, and France crossed again through winger Billes, the first of her hat-trick, with the extras added from Tremouliere.

As France were pinged at the breakdown shortly after, possession returned to the Scots and Martin wellied an impressive kick to touch to secure a lineout. With the French stealing ball, they made another break and the Scots were again on the back foot.

New cap, winger Jenny Maxell, made an impressive break which visibly rattled the French however their defence held fast, it was turnover ball and it was their which ended in a fourth try, Billes’ second. As the conversion attempt rebounded off the crossbar the whistle sounded and the sides went in at half time with the score 27-0 to the home side.

Scotland ran out for the second half with a resolve which saw further impressive attack from the backs, rallied by Martin, and some solid defence from the pack, with locks Deborah McCormack and Emma Wassell combining well.

It was 16 minutes into the second half before the spell was broken and sustained French pressure saw Billes complete her hat-trick, the conversion just short.

The Scots kept their heads up, however, with Wassell in the driving seat of an impressive tackle into touch on centre Poublan as the French attempted another charge up the wing.

As prop Heather Lockhart was substituted on the 60-minute mark the French crowd, appreciative of her efforts, broke into applause.

Scotland were putting in some brave hits but it was centre Heguy who crossed next, on 64 minutes for an uncoverted score, with Poublan completing the scoring on 73 minutes, as she sheared through the gap in the visitors’ defence.

Fighting until full time, a great steal from the back of the scrum by no 8 Jade Konkel followed by a plucky break from replacement prop Lisa Robertson came to nothing as the final whistle outran their efforts and the scoreline remained 42-0.

Scotland host Wales in the first of three home fixtures at their new base of Broadwood Stadium next Saturday and will be focussing on turning possession into points.

Commenting on the buoyant crowd cheering on the French this afternoon Maxton added: “We’ll be looking forward to having home support at Broadwood next Saturday.

“It’s a positive having Broadwood for all three games as players can get used to the surroundings. While it’s good to spread the game around the country, I think this will make us more settled in our preparations.”

Scotland team
15. Gillian Inglis, 14. Jenny Maxwell, 13. Chloe Rollie, 12. Nuala Deans, 11. Abi Evans, 10. Lisa Martin, 9. Sarah Law; 1. Heather Lockhart, 2. Lana Skeldon, 3. Tracy Balmer (cpt), 4. Deborah McCormack, 5. Emma Wassell, 6. Karen Dunbar, 7. Lyndsay O'Donnell, 8. Jade Konkel.

Replacements
16. Sarah Quick (on for Skeldon 29m)
17. Lindsey Smith (on for Balmer 72m)
18. Lisa Robertson (on for Lockhart 60m)
19. Christianne Fahey (on for McCormack 50m)
20. Rachael Cook (on for O’Donnell 50m)
21. Mhairi Grieve (on for Law 65m)
22. Claire Bain (on for Deans 68m)
23. Eilidh Sinclair (on for Maxwell 68m)

France team: Tremoulière (Neissen, 61) Delas (Boujard, 40), Poublan, Héguy, Billes, Cabalou, Rivoalen (Menanteau, 71) N’Diaye, Grand (Rayssac, 70), Diallo, De Nadaï (Ferer, 54), André, Duval (Chobet, 54), Mignot (cap) (Divoux, 61), Arricastre (Portaries, 74)

Referee: Claire Hodnett (England)