Consistency key as Scots fall at last hurdle

After a disappointing opening day at the Grand Prix decider in Brive this weekend, Scotland Women 7s needed to win both their matches on day two to remain in the upper level of European competition.

A two-point defeat to Portugal was balanced by a two-point win over Italy however it wasn’t enough to maintain Scotland’s place in the Series. The Scots then had to hope that Germany would beat Portugal, in the remaining Bowl play-off, to ensure their position but a win for the much-improved Iberians dashed hopes.

Head coach Scott Forrest said: "It's been disappointing. We had a goal of staying in the top ten and didn't manage to achieve it. We just weren't able to back up the performances of last weekend.

"The players finished with a win, still giving us a chance by beating Italy, but after today's loss to Portugal it was out of our control. We needed Germany to do us a favour by beating Portugal and it didn't happen.

"Credit to the girls, I think last weekend we punched above our weight by finishing ninth. When you look at the teams that are staying in this division - Italy, played them twice, won one lost one; Ukraine played them once and we beat them; and Portugal, played them three times and we beat them twice. So we can compete with these teams, we just can't do it consistently."

The young squad saw six new sevens' caps last weekend in Jade Konkel, Karen Dunbar, Lisa Ritchie, Eilidh Sinclair, Fiondi Parker and Cailtin Harvey. For the latter two it was their first senior international caps for Scotland.

Forrest said: "That stands us in good stead going forward but we need to back up our results and build on the work we've done for the last two months.

"The game as whole will benefit from this short sevens' season. The majority of these players will go into the fifteens game. They're fitter, faster, stronger, their skill sets have improved, their leadership skills have become better - that can only be of benefit all round."

Bowl semi-final v Portugal (FT 19-21)

After some early nerves from both sides, Scotland grasped the mettle as captain Steph Johnston intercepted a pass in her own half and broke for the line, the score converted by stand-off Lisa Martin. However the opposition came right back at them, slipped through a number of tackles to cross and level the scores. Just shy of half time a great combination of passes from winger Megan Gaffney to Johnston to back row Karen Dunbar saw the latter cross, the extras added by scrum-half Sarah Law to put Scotland ahead 14-7 at the break.

A steal from the scrum at the restart saw Portugal put the ball out wide to score, then convert. With a minute to go, substitute winger Sarah Dixon was at the end of a great string of passes across the field and raced in to reduce the margin to 19-21, the conversion attempt just short. As Dixon again looked set to score, on the hooter, the Scots were penalised for an infringement, Portugal kicked out the ball and the score stayed.

Bowl play-off v Italy (FT 19-17)

Scotland got off to the perfect start when fullback Eilidh Sinclair raced away with the ball from kick-off, to score in the first minute, the extras added by Sarah Law. Scrum half Jenny Maxwell looked to be a cert to score as she broke through the centre but a tackle saw the ball go loose; within a minute, however, a steal from the back of the scrum put the ball out to Johnston who took off up the wing to dot down, the conversion just short. As the half-time hooter sounded Italy, in possession of the ball, then kicked it repeatedly upfield and just got a touch to it before it rolled into dead ball territory, to get their first points on the board and make it 12-5 at the break.

As Italy scored again, at the restart, Scotland turned up the gas and sharpened their skills to put the ball through hands to Johnston who passed as she was tackled out to Lisa Ritchie who legged it up the pitch and scored between the sticks, the conversion from Lisa Martin. The tackle, however, had taken its toll on Johnston as play was stopped for her to receive medical attention and then be helped from the pitch [concussed, she will now follow the return to play protocols]. The momentum broken, Italy seized their chance and scrambled towards the posts, brought down but nonetheless managing to pass out to score. Though the try was converted on FT it wasn’t enough and Scotland had won by two points.

The squad began the two-tournament Series in 12th position, rising to 9th following their Bowl win in Russia last weekend. This weekend's results, however, mean relegation next season to play in Rugby Europe Women’s 7s Division A, along with Germany.


Rugby Europe Grand Prix Leg 2 – Brive, France (starting 7s and scores)

1      Jade Konkel (Hillhead Jordanhill)                                    E

2      Karen Dunbar (RHC Cougars)                      I                                   G               P(1T)       It

3      Eilidh Sinclair (Murrayfield Wanderers)         I                 E                G               P             It(1T)

4      Lisa Ritchie (Carlisle)                                                                                                            (1T)

5      Megan Gaffney (Hillhead Jordanhill)             I                 E                G(2T)      P               It

6      Lisa Martin (Murrayfield Wanderers)                               E                G             P(1C)        It(1C)

7      Sarah Dixon (Stirling County)                       I                                                        (1T)

8      Jenny Maxwell (Leeds Met/Lichfield)            I                                                    P               It

9      Sarah Law (Murrayfield Wanderers)             I                 E(1C)         G              P(1C)        It(1C)

10    Steph Johnston (Worcester)                         I                 E(1T)          G              P(1T)        It(1T)

11    Fionidi Parker (Northumbria University)                                             G

12    Caitlin Harvey (Caithness/RHC Cougars)                       E


Rugby Europe Women's 7s Grand Prix Series 1, 13-14 June, Kazan (Russia) - results
Pool A: Russia 37-0 Scotland; Portugal 12-14 Scotland; Italy 17-7 Scotland
Bowl Semi-final: Scotland 26-7 Ukraine
Bowl Final: Scotland 22-17 Portugal
Read about last weekend's opening leg here

Rugby Europe Women's 7s Grand Prix Series 2, 20-21 June, Brive (France)
Bowl Semi-final: Scotland 19-21 Portugal
Bowl 11/12 play-off: Scotland 19-17 Italy