Women’s 6N: Ireland defeat will sting for quite a while as Scots are edged out of third place and all that comes with it

Gary Heatly

Going into this year’s Guinness Women’s Six Nations the goal was clear for Scotland, keep up the good run heading into the tournament and win the three away games.

In the end they won two of the away games against Wales and Italy and put in a stellar display at home against world number three France in defeat.

The third away win in Ireland eluded the squad this weekend in Belfast though and, after finishing bottom of the pile last year, the Irish claimed third spot.

If Scotland had drawn or won the round five game on Saturday at the Kingspan Stadium they would have finished third and recorded three victories for the first time since 2005 and, more importantly, qualified for WXV 1 and Rugby World Cup 2025.

As it is, having finished fourth the same as last year, they will head to South Africa in a few months to defend the WXV 2 crown they won in 2023 and still need to have their World Cup spot rubber stamped.

Barring changes in qualification rules and the like, Scotland will be at the World Cup in England by result of being in WXV 2, but it would have been nice to have had it secured here and kept momentum really building.

Scotland are still in a positive place off the back of eight Test wins in 11 over the last 12 months, but this Ireland defeat will sting for quite a while for sure.

The visitors led 5-0 at half-time thanks to an unconverted try by hooker Elis Martin before Ireland struck back just after half-time through teenage winger Katie Corrigan.

Centre Lisa Thomson’s try, converted by stand-off Helen Nelson, then put Scotland 12-5 up.

With 22 minutes to go Ireland set up a thrilling last quarter when hooker Cliodhna Moloney crashed over for a try converted by stand-off Dannah O’Brien.

And, with seven minutes to go, O’Brien kept her cool to kick what turned out to be the winning penalty as they held on to win 15-12 despite a late yellow card to spark celebrations.

“There were opportunities to win the game and we didn’t take them,” Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm said.

“I think we struggled to break them down from an attack point of view. Our lineout defence gave us a platform to play off, but our lineout attack probably didn’t function as well as we would have liked.

“When we had the ball we probably didn’t threaten as much as we would like. Right now I don’t know exactly why that is.

“Defensively we put in a brilliant performance, particularly in the first 40 minutes when Ireland were really going at us in terms of those physical carries – and I think we fronted up phenomenally well. But we can’t defend for that length of time and not potentially break. It’s what happened.

“To have two wins, to come so close against France and push Ireland right up to the final whistle, is an incredible achievement in a very tough tournament.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied with that, but it doesn’t change what we’ve built over the last 12 months. The conviction in attack and the ability to put away opportunities is going to be the difference to take us to the next level.”

Scotland lost scrum-half Caity Mattinson to injury early on and, in a statement released on Sunday morning, Scottish Rugby said: “We are pleased to confirm, after receiving medical care, Caity is back with the team and is doing well. Thank you for your well wishes.”

England won the Grand Slam with a 42-21 win in France with the hosts finishing second.

Wales finish bottom, but ended on a high with a 22-20 victory over fifth placed Italy.

Scotland: Meryl Smith; Coreen Grant, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson; Leah Bartlett, Elis Martin, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan, Rachel Malcolm (C), Alex Stewart, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Molly Wright, Lisa Cockburn, Elliann Clarke, Eva Donaldson, Rachel McLachan, Mairi McDonald, Cieron Bell, Nicole Flynn.

  • Watsonians won the Sarah Beaney Cup on Saturday by defeating Hillhead Jordanhill 34-5 in the final at Murrayfield.

At the same ground, Biggar won the Shield by seeing off West of Scotland 66-20 and Caithness krakens lifted the Plate after beating Uddingston 47-27 at Hive Stadium next door.

Thanks to the Irish Rugby Twitter feed for the image

During the Guinness Women’s Six Nations period through to the end of April, GH Media will be covering all aspects of women’s rugby in Scotland via reports, features and interviews…

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