Women’s 6N: “Front-row energy was just growing and growing” as 80-minute trio led from the front against Italy

Gary Heatly

In modern rugby it is very rare that a starting front-row unit plays 80 minutes together, but that is what happened as Scotland defeated Italy on Saturday.

Scotland knew that if they were to be victorious in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations round four clash at the DAM Health Stadium they would have to be dominant up front – and they were just that.

The front-row all had outstanding games: loosehead prop Leah Bartlett scored two tries and was great in the tight and the loose, hooker Lana Skeldon the same and tighthead prop Christine Belisle was really in the zone at scrum time.

“You are always thinking about making front-row subs in the second half, but when you are still getting scrum penalties in the last 10 minutes there is no need to change,” head coach Bryan Easson said.

“The front-row energy was just growing and growing and the energy that was giving the rest of the team was great. I cannot speak highly enough of that three.”

Captain Rachel Malcolm added:  “A tighthead’s bread and butter is the scrum and if all she does all day is goes and wins penalties at scrum time then I’d be more than happy!

“Seriously though, it’s such a big step forward for us, the scrum performances we have been putting out last season and this season are a massive step forward.

“It is difficult to win games at this level without a set piece, but we are building in that area now we have a great attacking platform there and it creates opportunities elsewhere.

“All three of the front-row played 80 minutes, so a massive shout out to them.”

This was Scotland’s first win after 12 Test defeats on the trot, but Easson never lost faith in the group or the process over that time.

“This has been coming, we have been building, inside the camp we knew this was coming,” he stated.

“There were a lot of key moments in that game, we put them under pressure at the start of the second half, once we started mauling them we put their set piece under severe pressure and that was a real turning point, we squeezed them.

“We knew that at 24-7 they would come after us and would throw it around, but the big turning point was the high tackle [that led to a 65th minute red card] on Jade [Konkel-Roberts, the second-row].

“That was at 24-21, we kicked it into the corner and then we squeezed them. We are really proud, the emotion is pride more than anything, pride for everyone has been working so hard behind the scenes.

“It has been a difficult time for everybody and it is pride and relief I am feeling after that one – now we must kick on.”

Scotland V Italy: Chloe Rollie; Coreen Grant, Lisa Thomson, Meryl Smith, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Mairi McDonald; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Jade Konkel-Roberts, Louise McMillan, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Jodie Rettie, Anne Young, Elliann Clarke, Eva Donaldson, Eilidh Sinclair, Caity Mattinson, Beth Blacklock, Liz Musgrove.

Keep an eye out on GH Media’s channels for comprehensive coverage of all things Scotland throughout the TikTok Women’s Six Nations…

Scotland’s front row are pictured via Rugby People