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Scotland 27 - 20 Wales

Scotland recorded their first home victory in the Women’s Six Nations Championship for four years – and their first success in the competition at Scotstoun Stadium, putting Wales to the sword by four tries to two tonight.

Wales had won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the nations – the exception was Scotland’s win at Broadwood in 2017 – but once the hosts had stamped some control on the game from the half hour onwards, the hoodoo was about to be quashed.

There was a hint of a Welsh fight-back right at the start of the second-half, but as Scotland’s forwards upped their effort in the tight, that was soon dismissed.

Scotland’s tries came from Megan Gaffney, Megan Kennedy, Christine Belisle and Evie Gallagher, with the balance from captain, and player of the match, Helen Nelson’s boot.

Scotland thus finish in fifth place in the championship and are closing in on a place in the top ten of World Rugby’s rankings for the women’s game.Their main prize, however, remains qualification for the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand next year.

Another sun-kissed afternoon at Scotstoun as Scotland welcomed Hannah Smith, Jenny Maxwell and Belisle into their starting XV following their loss to Italy last weekend for their closing match of the 2021 Women’s Six Nations Championship.

Wales opted for nine changes of personnel following their heavy loss to Ireland and were without their influential captain Siwan Lillicrap.

The game was preceded by a thanks to all frontline workers for their care and dedication during the pandemic and the pledge of rugby’s continuing solidarity against racism.

Scotland kicked off towards the sports centre through Lisa Thomson and there were early touches from both Chloe Rollie and Gaffney.

An offside penalty on the half-way enabled Thomson to find touch inside the Welsh 22. A quickly taken Scotland lineout and some smart hands saw Hannah Smith feed inside to Gaffney hunting off her wing in midfield.

There were aggressive carries from Emma Wassell, Siobhan Cattigan and Lisa Thomson before Scotland moved ball wide again for Smith to release Gaffney for the opening try. Nelson missed the conversion from out wide, her first miscue of the Championship (5-0, 5 mins).

Louise McMillan required some medical treatment as Wales sought to pin Scotland in their own 22 with kicks from open play.

A high tackle penalty against Wassell after she had halted Donna Rose, gave Robyn Wilkins the chance of Wales’ first points of the campaign but she was off target.

The visitors were dominating possession at this stage, but Scotland withstood a persistent attack, derailed by a knock-on from full-back Jasmine Joyce. However, advantage was being played by the Italian referee and Wilkins was successful with a penalty in front of the sticks (5-3, 20 mins).

Scotland sought to run off scrum ball on their 22 but conceded a penalty in the aftermath of a tackle on Smith and Wilkins gave the Welsh the lead (5-6, 25 mins).

The old possession graphic popped up on my laptop screen, showing Scotland had only been in the Welsh 22 for 7% of the game thus far.

Time to sort out that stat and how Scotland did! A scrum collapse penalty enabled Thomson’s boot to take the Scots to within striking distance. Lana Skeldon and Wassell executed their lineout skills, Thomson did a dummy run and a kick-pass from Nelson uncorked Gaffney. The winger made it to within five metres. Scotland recycled and Nelson, then Wassell, surged forward before ball found Megan Kennedy who applied a thunderous finish. Nelson converted a cracking try. (12-6, 28 mins).

And the habit was to prove infectious as, just over five minutes later, after Scotland had again taken a straight-forward option via the boot for territory, Skeldon and Thomson were denied on successive tilts for the line, but Christine Belisle got there for the third try. Nelson missed the conversion (17-6, 34 mins).

Scotland now were playing with a bit more freedom and ended the half with a powerful scrummage drive from which Wales were fortunate to escape without conceding a further score.

Half-time: Scotland 17 Wales 6

A maddening resumption from a home perspective . . .Scotland did the first bit well, winning the restart, but the tactic that had borne fruit in the latter stages of the first-half, hoofing the ball into Welsh territory allied to a committed chase, was ignored on this occasion.

Smith’s overly fierce pass to Thomson saw Wales pilfer ball and go through phases, where, ultimately, scrum-half Megan Davies set up the opening for Lisa Neumann’s try on the right. Wilkins converted and Wales were right back in the contest (17-13, 43 mins).

Scotland had to look sharp in defence immediately thereafter, but a rampaging break from Cattigan set up the position from which the now well-drilled double act of Skeldon and Wassell at the lineout triggered a close-range drive over try for Evie Gallagher. Nelson converted and Scotland had some breathing space. (24-13, 54 mins).

Into the last quarter and Nelson’s diagonal kick almost set up a try for Liz Musgrove, who seized on the bounce like a kid reaching for a cookie jar. Scotland were denied but Wales did concede a penalty which Nelson goaled (27-13, 69 mins).

Wales finished with a flourish and Caitlyn Lewis grabbed their second try in injury time. Wilkins landing an “in-off “conversion. (27-20, 83 mins).

Full-time: Scotland 27 Wales 20

Scotland Women: Chloe Rollie (Harlequins); Liz Musgrove (Unattached), Hannah Smith (Watsonians), Lisa Thomson (Unattached), Megan Gaffney (Heriots); Helen Nelson CAPTAIN, Jenny Maxwell (both Loughborough Lightning); Christine Belisle (Cartha Queens Park), Lana Skeldon (Unattached), Megan Kennedy (Stirling County), Emma Wassell (Corstorphine Cougars), Louise McMillan (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Evie Gallagher (Stirling County), Rachel McLachlan (Unattached), Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County).

Subs: Jodie Rettie (Saracens) for Cattigan (21-34 mins), Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning) for Kennedy (59 mins), Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park) for Belisle (70 mins), Nicola Howat (Sale Sharks), Mairi McDonald (Hillhead/Jordanhill), Sarah Law (Unattached), Evie Wills (Stirling County), Rachel Shankland (Stirling County)

Wales Women: Jasmine Joyce; Lisa Neumann, Gemma Rowland, Hannah Jones CAPTAIN, Caitlin Lewis; Robyn Wilkins, Megan Davies; Caryl Thomas, Robyn Lock, Donna Rose, Natalia John, Teleri Wyn Davies, Manon Johnes, Bethan Dainton, Georgia Evans

Subs: Kelsey Jones for Lock (40 mins), Gwenllian Jenkins for Thomas (73 mins), Cerys Hale for Rose (63 mins), Gwen Crabb for Wyn Davies (60 mins), Shona Powell-Hughes for Dainton (59 mins), Abbie Fleming for John(70 mins), Jade Knight for Davies (79mins), Megan Webb for Rowland (79 mins).

Referee: Clara Munarini (Italy). Assistant referees: Aurélie Groizeleau and Doriane Domenjo (both France). TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

SP Energy Networks Player of the Match: Helen Nelson (Scotland).

live commentary 5:00 PM Saturday 24 Apr 2021

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