Scotland v USA
Scotland play their opening match of the Women’s Rugby World Cup six weeks tomorrow and they look as if they are shaping up very nicely on the evidence of this afternoon’s Summer Test against the United States at the Dam Health Stadium.
The Americans, ranked five places above the Scots in the world rankings at number five, were a tasty amalgam of power and finesse, with Player of the Match, Alev Kelter, prop Hope Rogers and No 8 and captain Kate Zachary offering quality in abundance.
But Scotland were always in the contest. They looked fit; their skill execution was sharp for the most part and there was huge resilience in their scramble defence, epitomised by Chloe Rollie, who twice made crucial interventions to deny what looked like certain scores.
Scotland’s points came from tries from Lana Skeldon and Rhona Lloyd, both converted by Helen Nelson who also goaled a penalty.
The US Eagles’ points were provided by tries from Rogers (2) and Zachary with Kelter and Gabby Catorna adding a penalty apiece.
The Eagles kicked off towards BT Murrayfield and Lisa Thomson collected and Scotland’s initial defensive engagement from the centre’s kick was sound.
A spill forward from the visitors soon after enabled Helen Nelson to fire Scotland deep into USA territory but the ball rolled agonisingly into in-goal.
From the drop-out, Thomson gathered and triggered Rollie, on her 50th cap. The full-back looked to have been obstructed but, no matter, a penalty was awarded at the subsequent breakdown. Scotland opted for the touchline, Sarah Bonar was the target, and her pack then got the driving maul powering forward for Lana Skeldon to claim the touchdown. Nelson converted (7-0, 6 mins).
Scotland continued to look assured, but a scrum penalty gave Kelter the chance to land the Eagles’ first points. (7-3, 11 mins).
Kelter had already looked threatening ball in hand and when she was released from inside the Americans’ half, Scotland had to be alert.
Katana Howard carried menacingly and though Scotland chopped well as the Americans went through the phases, eventually loose-head prop Rogers surged over for the Eagles’ opening try. Cantorna missed the conversion (7-8, 15 mins).
It had been a lively opening quarter and Scotland were soon back on the attack. Evie Gallagher and Rachel Malcolm did the spadework and then a grand miss-pass from let to right by Thomson set up Rhona Lloyd who finished superbly stepping inside the cover and then having the strength to dot down in the corner. Nelson’s conversion was a peach (14-8, 17 mins).
Cantorna’s penalty closed the gap (14-11, 23 mins), and then tigerish defence from Belisle (twice), Bonar and then Thomson denied the Americans’ captain Zachary on the home try line.
Scotland withstood a five- metre scrum and despite some lovely soft hands from Rogers, the loosehead, in midfield, a timely turnover kept the home fans in the crowd of 2,024, in good voice.
The menace of Kelter, Charlotte Clapp and Rogers was stamped all over the Americans’ next attack which ended with Zachary thundering over in the corner. Cantorna miscued the conversion (14-16, 37 mins).
Scotland responded anew and though Lloyd was just about clear on the right, the referee was playing an advantage for a high tackle on Lana Skeldon. Nelson did the business from just to the left of the uprights to restore Scotland’s lead at the interval. (17-16, 40 mins).
Half-time: Scotland 17 USA 16.
Scotland were sprightly on the restart with Rollie probing on the right, then Hannah Smith was released by Emma Orr on the left. Alarm bells were ringing for the visitors until a wonderful cover tackle from Hallie Taufoou on Smith.
America were quick to counter-attack and from soft hands from Jordan Matyas, it looked as if Taufoou had scored under the posts.
The TMO however was not convinced on the grounding and in conjunction with referee Joy Neville ruled the ball had been knocked on as a consequence of Rollie’s brave tackle.
Scotland brought on fresh legs in the front-row on the 51st minute with Eliann Clarke winning her first cap.
A popular introduction alongside Leah Bartlett and when a penalty was awarded to the Scots at the first scrum on their arrival, the stands roared their approval.
Scotland soon opted for the touchline and from Emma Wassell’s catch, Bartlett led the wave of attacks for Jade Konkel-Roberts to make one of her trademark breenges. Unfortunately, she was held up.
Thereafter, another debut for Scotland as Elis Martin joined the fray after Rachel McLachlan had taken a knock.
Into the final quarter and the Eagles made inroads deep into the Scotland 22 from a powerful driving maul. Scotland blunted that attack but at the expense of a penalty, from which the Americans’ admirable prop Rogers tapped and powered over. Kelter missed the conversion (17-21, 63 mins).
Rollie made a brilliant try-saving tackle on Clapp as the game entered its dying embers and Scotland tried valiantly to break the shackles. But it was not to be in spite of a sustained attack with the clock in the red.
Full time: Scotland 17 USA 21.
Scotland: Chloe Rollie (Exeter Chiefs) ; Rhona Lloyd (Les Lionnes du Stade Bordelais), Emma Orr (Biggar), Lisa Thomson (Sale Sharks), Hannah Smith (Watsonians); Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Caity Mattinson (Worcester Warriors); Molly Wright (Sale Sharks), Lana Skeldon (Worcester Warriors), Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell (both Loughborough Lightning), Sarah Bonar (Harlequins) Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning) CAPTAIN, Louise McMillan (Saracens), Evie Gallagher (Worcester Warriors)
Subs: Elis Martin (Heriot’s) for McLachlan (55 mins), Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning) for Wright (51 mins), Elliann Clarke (Edinburgh University) for Belisle (51 mins), Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks) for McMillan (40 mins), Jade Konkel-Roberts (Harlequins) for Gallagher (40 mins), Mairi McDonald (Hillhead/Jordanhill) for Mattinson (59 mins), Meryl Smith (Edinburgh University) for Nelson (59 mins). and Shona Campbell (Edinburgh University) for Smith (70 mins).
USA: Alev Kelter; Jennine Detiveaux, Eti Haungatau, Katana Howard, Charlotte Clapp ; Gabby Cantorna, Olivia Ortiz; Hope Rogers, Jo-Jo Kitlinski, Nick James, Hallie Taufoou, Jenny Kronish, Jordan Matyas, Rachel Johnson, Kate Zachary CAPTAIN.
Subs: Jett Hayward, Catie Benson for Rogers (70mins), Charli Jacoby for James (63 mins), Evi Ashenbrucker for Kronish (58 mins), Georgie Berris-Redding for Matyas (70 mins), Carly Waters for Ortiz (70 mins), Meya Vizer for Haungatau (58 mins), Tess Feury for Howard (63 mins).
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland). Assistant referees: Hollie Davidson (Scotland) and Maria Beatrice Benvenuti (Italy). TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).
Player of the Match: Alev Kelter.