Rugby World Cup: Game, set and match as Easson’s aces serve up a treat for Judy Murray and make it to NZ

By Gary Heatly

Before the match they received a message of support – among many others – from world famous Scottish band Biffy Clyro and after the game they met Scots’ tennis legend Judy Murray.

The Scotland rugby squad might be feeling a bit starstruck as a result, but it is now them who have the chance to be stars at a World Cup after a professional performance saw them defeat Colombia in the final qualifier in Dubai on Friday.

It might have been pretty hot in The Sevens Stadium in the UAE, but Scotland took the heat out of the situation by taking a 28-3 lead into half-time against the 25th ranked team in the world.

The ninth ranked team added five more tries in the second half to win 59-3 and the final whistle sparked scenes of jubilation as player of the match Louise McMillan, Christine Belisle and others ran from the bench to embrace their team mates in the middle of the field.

The way they played – and the togetherness in the group – no doubt impressed Judy and others in the stadium and further afield watching on.

And skipper Rachel Malcolm said:  “This is the best feeling I have felt in my entire life.

“As a wee girl I dreamt of playing with a thistle on my shirt and to go out there and play with some of my best mates and perform like that to get us to a World Cup, well I really am struggling to put into words just how much it means to myself and this group.

“We are so passionate about leaving this set-up in a better place and what we have done here is massive in terms of what can happen for Scottish women’s rugby in the future, little girls watching can now aspire to go to a World Cup.

“I am just feeling every emotion under the sun going through me right now, I am over the moon and I am so, so proud of the group.”

Given the emotional challenges this squad has had in the last couple of years to make it to New Zealand, with the pandemic followed by the passing of their team mate Siobhan Cattigan aged just 26 in November, a teary captain also paid tribute to the backroom team.

“I’m so proud of our management, I couldn’t ask for more in terms of what they’ve given us in these last two years and I can’t emphasise that enough,” she explains.

“Head coach Bryan Easson has been phenomenal as has team manager Ellen Dickson. What we’ve been through as a squad and how those two in particular have rallied round us, well it’s just been a massive squad/everyone effort.

After the players paid tribute to ‘Shibby’ by placing her shirt in front of them during the anthems, two early penalties from stand-off Sarah Law and then unconverted tries came from centre Lisa Thomson and winger Megan Gaffney gave them a 16-0 lead.

Winger Rhona Lloyd scored next and then winger Maria Isabel Arzuaga kicked a penalty for Colombia.

Before the break Law scored a converted try and Scotland were 28-3 up at the interval.

Gaffney, No.8 Jade Konkel, hooker Lana Skeldon, replacement Evie Wills and fellow sub Molly Wright bagged tries in the second period.

The squad were due to fly out of Dubai in the early hours and, all being well, will be at BT Murrayfield to watch the men play on Saturday afternoon.

The World Cup takes place in October and November in New Zealand and Scotland will take on the hosts, Australia and Wales in Pool A of the 12-team tournament

Members of the Scotland squad are pictured meeting Judy Murray after the match in the main photo