U20 6N WSS: Scotland didn’t quite hit heights in opener, but plenty positives to take forward

Gary Heatly

Scotland were just edged out in their under-20 Six Nations Women’s Summer Series opening match against Italy.

In warm conditions late on Thursday night in Parma, the Scots led 13-12 at half-time and had lots of possession after the break, but an unconverted try in the 61st minute won it 17-13 for the hosts at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

What they said…

Scotland head coach Claire Cuikshank said:  “We maybe need to hold onto the ball a little bit more, but from a defensive point of view I thought our contact area was brilliant and when we looked to move the ball in attack we were dangerous.

“We got to the edge and we created opportunities, we just need to not force it.

“There are lot of things that we can fix quite quickly. There’s some real positives in terms of creating opportunities which is fantastic to see.

“The forwards put in real work across the whole game, scrums, lineout. I thought our lineout was excellent. We definitely had the upper hand in several scrums. So the set-piece gave us a platform and we know that if we can get a platform, then we have the backs who challenge anyone in this competition.

“There are loads of positives to take into the next two games.”

A review of the match…

Italy got off to a flying start and opened the scoring in the fourth minute when tighthead prop Vittoria Zanette burst through for a try. Winger Martina Busana converted and it was 7-0.

Scotland, led well by stand-off Ceitidh Ainsworth, responded well and, in the 11th minute, centre Lucy MacRae kicked a penalty to make it 7-3.

Italy, through Zanette, were then held up over the try line before second-row Holland Bogan had a good run for the Scots, but as the 20 minute mark came and went, the score remained the same.

Scotland winger Sky Phimister was starting to find a bit of space on the edge which was promising as there was then a water break in hot temperatures.

In the 24th minute co-captain Hannah Walker had a good break up the left and, 60 seconds later after a couple of turnovers, the ball was shipped left again and the winger fed a neat pass inside to centre Nicole Flynn who scored the try. MacRae converted and it was 10-7.

After half an hour Italy second-row Francesca Andreoli took a quick tap and scored only for it to be pulled back, but replacement Aregash Pellizzon did score a five-pointer. It was not converted and it was 12-10 to Italy.

An excellent long range penalty from MacRae in the 35th minute made it 13-12 and that is how it stayed at the break with Walker just being forced into touch at the death with the try line beckoning.

Early in the second half Scotland lost back-row Merryn Gunderson to injury before Phimister showed her pace again while the players off the bench were making a solid impact.

Despite a lot of possession they still just had a one point lead after 55 minutes with handling errors holding them back.

And, as the final quarter began, Italy hit Scotland with a sucker punch with replacement Greta Copat going over for a try. It was not converted and it was 17-13.

With 15 minutes to go Phimister again found the edge, but Italy stopped her on the way to the try line and turned the ball over.

The score remained the same with five minutes remaining and handling errors at key times were still causing the Scots issues.

Late on they gave it everything and, into the last minute, Phimister had another sharp break and then, 30 seconds later, she hacked a loose ball on, but it just went though the dead ball area before she could pounce and it was agony for Scotland.

In the other day one games, France defeated Wales 57-12 and England saw off Ireland 33-10.

Summer-y of the Summer Series game…

  • Second-row Natasha Logan looks like she has a big future. She is one of the overage players in this squad and the University of Edinburgh player who came through the ranks at Stirling County took her Celtic Challenge form with Edinburgh Rugby into this game. She was good in the lineout and impressive in the loose, carrying well. Being part of the Scotland wider squad for the Guinness Women’s Six Nations has clearly helped her.

  • Scotland have good pace out wide when they can find the edge. Time and time again wingers Hannah Walker and Sky Phimister found space and caused the Italians problems. Centre Nicole Flynn is also quick and if talented ball players like Ceitidh Ainsworth and Lucy MacRae inside them can free them up then there are tries there.

  • The squad just need to have a bit more self belief. The bounced back well from conceding an early try then went up at half-time. The first 20 minutes of the second half is when they should have taken the game away from Italy, but too often, after good build up play too often in the ‘22’ panic set in and there were mistakes and Italy punished them. A bit more clarity and confidence at key times would have seen Scotland record a win here.

To come…

Scotland play France on July 9 at 5.30pm and Ireland on July 14 at 9am.

The Scottish fixtures will be available to watch via scottishrugby.org, with all remaining matches available on the Six Nations Rugby YouTube channels.

Scotland matchday 23 that played Italy

15.Lucia Scott (Hartpury University/Gloucester Hartpury)

14. Sky Phimister (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors)

13. Nicole Flynn (University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh Rugby)

12. Lucy MacRae (University of Edinburgh/Glasgow Warriors)

11. Hannah Walker (University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh Rugby, C-C)

10. Ceitidh Ainsworth (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors)

9. Leia Brebner-Holden (Gloucester Hartpury/Edinburgh Rugby)

1. Poppy Fletcher (University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh Rugby, C-C)

2. Aila Ronald (University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh Rugby)

3. Eilidh Fleming (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors)

4. Holland Bogan (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors)

5. Natasha Logan (University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh Rugby)

6. Merryn Gunderson (Corstorphine Cougars/Edinburgh Rugby)

7. Lauryn Walter (Brunel University/Ealing Trailfinders)

8. Megan Hyland (Garioch/Glasgow Warriors)


16. Karis Craig (Watsonian FC/Glasgow Warriors)

17. Chloe Brown (Stirling County/Glasgow Warriors)

18. Molly Poolman (Watsonian FC/Edinburgh Rugby)

19. Talei Tawake (Watsonian FC)

20. Gemma Bell (Hartpury University/Gloucester Hartpury/Edinburgh Rugby)

21. Rebekah Douglas (Corstorphine Cougars/Glasgow Warriors)

22. Hannah Ramsay (Unattached/Edinburgh Rugby)

23. Nicole Marlow (Cardiff Metropolitan University/Edinburgh Rugby)

Scotland are pictured versus Italy in lineout mode, thanks to Scottish Rugby for the image

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