Sensational Scots keep World Cup dream alive
Scotland produced the most stirring of fightbacks to beat Ireland in the final moments of an exceptional game of rugby to ensure that qualification for next year’s Rugby World Cup is a tale they could yet write.
The two-point, thrill-laden encounter was settled with a late Chloe Rollie try, converted by the ice-cool Sarah Law, as Scotland confirmed their place in the repechage stage, to be played in due course.
In a match with so much at stake, both sides wrestled for possession and territory throughout the opening exchanges, Ireland opting to kick for position as Scotland tried to hold on to the ball through a series of phases.
Scotland had an early attack that saw the ball pass through the hands of the back division, finding its way to Megan Gaffney, who threatened to do real damage before an Irish scrambled defence led to a turnover.
Physicality at the breakdown from Scotland derailed several Ireland attacks and, when the opposition decided to kick for a touch they wouldn’t make, some excellent defence negated any notion of the opening points of the game.
A rampaging run from Ireland prop Linda Djougang, whereby she held off the efforts of numerous Scots, saw the game’s first try, which went unconverted (5-0).
The opportunity for a response came swiftly, Ireland penalised for not rolling away at a ruck. Lisa Thomson found a handy touch from which Scotland attempted a rolling maul, a move which brought about success against Spain last time out.
If that didn’t amount to much, a high tackle by Ireland flanker Edel McMahon on her opposite number, Rachel Malcolm, led to a TMO review and from that, a yellow card was brandished. Helen Nelson’s boot reduced arrears from the resulting penalty (5-3).
Scotland didn’t manage any points in the ten minutes that followed, although Chloe Rollie’s searing run, shortly followed by another Gaffney foray, got onlookers interested.
That interest was intensified when Hannah Smith cantered into the Irish 22, her progress checked just metres from the line, although the Scottish breakthrough came when Nelson’s deft chip was gleefully finished by Rhona Lloyd – the winger’s third try in as many games. Nelson’s conversion may have missed, but a half-time lead was rich reward for a breathless first 40 minutes (5-8).
IRELAND 5-8 SCOTLAND
The second half’s first notable play came as Emma Wassell - on her 50th appearance for Scotland - harried the Irish scrum-half at a line-out, forcing a knock-on and earning her side a scrum, from which Nelson cleared into opposition territory – where another dropped ball afforded Bryan Easson’s side a further set play.
Such aggression, displayed in winning a scrum penalty, saw Scotland in the ascendancy and when Lana Skeldon burrowed over from close range, the lead was extended (5-13).
Stacey Flood landed a straightforward penalty after 53 minutes to eat into the lead and stop the relative scoring rot (8-13), before Scotland superbly held up an Irish advance on their own line amidst the most intense of pressure.
The defence was eventually breached, however, when Lindsay Peat went over for Ireland, Flood’s conversion affording her side the lead once more on the hour mark, before another three-pointer opened up a scoreboard gap (18-13).
Scotland rallied, and with minutes left, found themselves with a player advantage, Eve Higgins yellow carded for a tip-tackle on Thomson.
The stage was set, and how Scotland stepped up. After a couple of phases, the ball fell to Chloe Rollie and the full-back motored home to tie the scores, incredibly, at 18-18.
All eyes, and heart rates, were fixed on Sarah Law, whose coolness in front of the posts enabled her to guide the ball between the posts to seal a most famous of wins and secure with it a future opportunity to reach the World Cup. That time will come but for now, Scotland will savour one of their finest days.
IRELAND 18-20 SCOTLAND
Chloe Rollie (Harlequins); Rhona Lloyd (Les Lionness Du Stade Bordelais), Hannah Smith (Watsonians), Lisa Thomson (Sale Sharks), Megan Gaffney (Heriot’s); Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning); Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning), Lana Skeldon (Worcester Warriors), Christine Belisle (Cartha Queens Park), Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Rachel Malcolm CAPTAIN (Loughborough Lightning), Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks), Jade Konkel (Harlequins).
Replacements: Molly Wright (Watsonians), Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park), Katie Dougan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Sarah Bonar (Harlequins), (Evie Gallagher (Stirling County), Mairi McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill), Sarah Law (Sale Sharks), Abi Evans (Darlington Mowden Park).
live commentary 5:00 PM Saturday 25 Sep 2021
Jenny Maxwell9. Scrum half
Helen Nelson10. Flyhalf
Megan Gaffney11. Left Wing
Lisa Thomson12. Inside Centre
Hannah Smith13. Outside Centre
Rhona Lloyd14. Right Wing
Chloe Rollie15. Full Back
Leah Bartlett1. Loosehead
Lana Skeldon2. Hooker
Christine Belisle3. Tighthead
Emma Wassell4. Lock
Louise McMillan5. Lock
Rachel Malcolm6. Blindside Flanker
Rachel McLachlan7. Openside Flanker
Jade Konkel8. Number 8