Women’s 6N: GH Media’s very unofficial Scotland end of tournament awards

Gary Heatly

Scotland were recently playing in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations, the captain Rachel Malcolm wears six on her back and the team scored six tries in the last game against Ireland.

So, it seems fitting, after covering the whole tournament including Scotland’s two wins and seeing the team claim an encouraging fourth place finish, to hand out six very unofficial Scotland end of tournament awards via GH Media…

Scotland’s forward of the 6N: Evie Gallagher

A number of contenders for this one with the regular starting front-row trio of Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon and Christine Belisle leading from the front, second-row Louise McMillan putting in a great shift and second-row/No.8 Jade Konkel-Roberts doing well on return from injury mid-tournament. The two Rachels – Malcolm and McLachlan – worked tirelessly, but the award goes to their fellow back-rower Evie Gallagher.

Gallagher, 22, agonisingly missed the World Cup late last year with an ankle injury suffered just before the squad flew to New Zealand, but she rehabbed well with the staff at club Worcester Warriors and, after five months out, played two games for them just before the Six Nations.

In the tournament itself it looked like she had never been away and she played No.8 in four games and number seven in one, taking her up to 18 caps now. She played all 400 minutes of Scotland’s campaign, carried 64 times for 242 metres, made 81 tackles and made four turnovers.

Scotland’s back of the 6N: Chloe Rollie

 Again, a number of contenders for this award in a backline that really looked like it was starting to click under attack coach Chris Laidlaw come the last two matches.

Both scrum-halves used – Caity Mattinson and Mairi McDonald – acquitted themselves well while Helen Nelson, the vice-captain now on 51 caps, put together a cracking string of games. Her kicking game has improved while it is clear that she and Rachel Malcolm work well together on the leadership side of things.

Centres Meryl Smith and Emma Orr are both cool customers who have bright futures while Lisa Thomson’s experience was crucial in two games.

With Rhona Lloyd and Shona Campbell with GB Sevens and Hannah Smith and Megan Gaffney having retired, wing spots were up for grabs and Francesca McGhie and Coreen Grant really took their opportunities well. The former has burst onto the scene while the latter has had to bide her time, but they offer something different.

However, this award goes to Chloe Rollie. The full-back returned from the World Cup with an arm injury, but got fit and played for her new club Loughborough Lightning before the Six Nations.

The 27-year-old scored a cracking try versus England in round one and crossed for further scores against Wales and Ireland to put her on 18 tries from 57 caps.

Scotland’s young player(s) of the 6N: Meryl Smith and Francesca McGhie

Currently Scotland is blessed with a great crop of youngsters like Emma Orr, Anne Young, Elliann Clarke and Eva Donaldson.

They all played during this event, but 21-year-old centre Meryl Smith and 19-year-old winger Francesca McGhie stood out as young player(s) of the Six Nations.

Before the event, Smith had four caps, but now she has nine and she looks like an experienced campaigner out on the pitch. That probably comes down to her rugby brain and her calmness under pressure while captaining the Thistles earlier this year also seems to have given her confidence.

She started in four games and came off the bench against France, saving the best for last with a player of the match performance against Italy in which she scored her first international try and set up another with a break.

Before the event, not many in the wider Scottish rugby public would have heard of McGhie, but they will have now. The coaches backed her after a cracking Thistles’ campaign and gave her a debut versus England.

She acquitted herself well in Newcastle and, injury in France aside, built steadily throughout five starts with the icing on the cake being her excellent try versus Ireland which people will still be watching this time next year. In 324 minutes on the pitch she made 350 metres from 24 carries.

Scotland’s unsung hero(es) of the 6N: Leah Bartlett and Louise McMillan

 The first unsung hero of the tournament is loosehead prop Leah Bartlett.

With Molly Wright joining fellow experienced loosehead Lisa Cockburn on the injury list before the Six Nations, Bartlett was handed the number one jersey and started all five matches.

Still just 24, the Loughborough Lightning player now has 26 caps to her name already and was very consistent in recent weeks. She chipped in with two tries against Italy and one against Ireland while, as well as performing well in the scrum, she made 47 tackles and 32 carries.

With regular second-row starters Sarah Bonar and Emma Wassell both out, others had a chance to come in and fill that area of the team and everyone who did that did a good job.

Lyndsay O’Donnell played in the first three matches and it was great to see her back in a Scotland shirt before Jade Konkel-Roberts moved in there from the back-row.

The thought process of that was to get Scotland’s four ‘back-rows’ on the pitch at the same time and she linked up well with Rachel Malcolm, Rachel McLachlan and Evie Gallagher against Italy and Ireland.

Louise McMillan started off the season in amazing form for her new club Saracens and she carried that on in the second-row for Scotland, starting all five games and being the second unsung hero of the tournament.

The 25-year-old now has 44 caps under her belt and played 391 of 400 minutes during the event, scoring a first try for her country versus Italy.

Scotland’s best show(s) of leadership of the 6N: 24-21 pep talk V Italy and post-Ireland

The way that the coaches and the senior players lifted the team up post-France – a third tournament loss and 12th Test defeat on the spin – to get them up for beating Italy and Ireland was impressive.

However, two on field moments stick out.

In the Italy match Scotland looked to be heading for a comfortable win when they secured a bonus point fourth try and went 24-7 up.

However, the Italians scored two quickfire converted tries and it was suddenly 24-21. Under the posts after the second try, Scotland of old might have panicked and let things get away from them, but whatever captain Rachel Malcolm and vice-captain Helen Nelson said in the huddle it worked a treat.

From the next kick off the team were fired up and went on to get the winning try and a very important 29-21 win.

And, seven days later, when the final whistle blew after the Ireland game and a 36-10 bonus point win had been secured, the Scotland players rightly wanted to celebrate with each other and the supporters.

There would be time for that though and, after a clenched fist and a smile, Malcolm immediately directed the players to go and shake hands with the Irish squad. The players could have got lost in the moment, but that sportsmanship was important and set a good example to the youngsters watching.

Scotland’s bring a smile to the face moment(s) of the 6N: The Scottish Thistles day out and the record 6N home crowd

There were plenty: the final whistle versus Italy, Lisa Thomson and Helen Nelson reaching 50 plus caps apiece and Francesca McGhie’s try versus Ireland for example.

But these two standout moments came off the pitch.

On the day of the Italy match many of the Scottish Thistles – those players previously capped for Scotland between 1993 and now – met up at the DAM Health Stadium to cheer the current generation to victory.

They then headed to Edinburgh Accies’ Raeburn Place clubhouse where players shared stories of the last three decades and many of the 234 capped players caught up with each other into the evening.

Speeches were made, photos and videos were shared and the icing on the cake came when members of the current squad arrived late on the a standing ovation – that moment just showed the community there is in Scottish women’s rugby

Seven days later the record home crowd for a Six Nations game was recorded at the DAM Health.

The previous recorded best was 3,988 versus England last year while 3,638 were at the Italy game, but 4,862 were in the ground in Edinburgh for the Ireland match.

The atmosphere was superb, the smiles were wide and it is onwards and upwards now…

That’s GH Media’s coverage of Scotland TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaign for 2023 over, thanks to those who have supported and engaged with the content…

Evie Gallagher and Chloe Rollie are pictured by Rugby People