Women’s 6N: Seventh win on spin came in Six Nations – here are three players that made a difference

Gary Heatly

Scotland rugby supporters are starting the week with smiles on their faces after the women’s team created history in Cardiff on Saturday.

The national team has won seven Tests in a row for the first time ever and it happened in the most dramatic fashion, defeating the Welsh 20-18 in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations opener at Cardiff Arms Park.

Not only was it a seventh win on the spin, it was their first away win in the competition since 2018 and only their second since 2007.

In front of a crowd of 5,965, Wales took an early lead through scrum-half Keira Bevan, but Scotland hit back straight away with their first attack. It was a well-taken try from winger Coreen Grant, converted by stand-off Helen Nelson.

Nelson then kicked a penalty to make it 10-3 after 16 minutes and, given the possession and territory they had, the Scots probably should have had more points by the half hour mark.

However, Wales finished the half strongly and a penalty with the clock in the red from Bevan made it 10-6 at the interval.

A try by winger Rhona Lloyd, converted by Nelson, made it 17-6 after 49 minutes before a try by Sisilia Tuipulotu, converted by Bevan, made it 17-3.

Scotland then had to weather a couple of injuries before Nelson’s penalty in the 73rd minute made it 20-13.

Wales then knocked at the door, back-row Alex Stewart was yellow carded and then back-row Alex Callender’s try for Wales was given after a TMO check. Lleucu George, the stand-off, could not convert though and Scotland held on for a famous win.

After the match Scotland head coach Bryan Easson said “hats off to everyone”, but he picked out three players who had made a real difference for the visitors…

Coreen Grant

Winger Coreen Grant has now scored in the last two Scotland matches against Japan and Wales.

Her opening try at the weekend great awareness and composure and, overall, it was her best performance yet in a Scotland jersey on her eighth appearance.

The Saracens player was named player of the match, topping the stats with 132 metres carried, gaining 111 metres in the process and making 91 post-tackle metres.

“Coreen was excellent,” Easson said.

“Wales kicked a lot and I thought she was comfortable under the high ball and her one-on-one stuff was excellent as was her finish for the try.

“Her kick chase was good, her work rate off the ball was excellent and she is a smart rugby player, like a very smart rugby player.”

Alex Stewart

What a few weeks it has been for the 19-year-old back-row Alex Stewart.

The Edinburgh University law student, who has come through the ranks at Liberton High School, Lismore and Edinburgh Harlequins, now plays her club rugby for Corstorphine in the Premiership.

And her performances as vice-captain for Edinburgh Rugby as they finished second in the recent Celtic Challenge and then her work in Scotland training camps prompted Easson to give her the number seven shirt for the opener.

She was not born the last time Scotland won in Cardiff in February 2004, but she showed maturity here and, barring a late yellow card it was a great day for her.

“Alex was excellent, you just wouldn’t think she has only been around the squad for four weeks,” Easson said.

“Genuinely she played well above the levels that she has done before, but they are the levels that we know she can get to, she really was excellent and she has a big future.”

Stewart made 17 successful tackles during the match, topped the stats by arriving at 27 attacking breakdowns and made more ruck clean outs than anyone else with 10.

Helen Nelson

In the Rugby World Cup group stage match between these two sides back in late 2022, stand-off Helen Nelson had an off day with the boot as Wales won in New Zealand, but this was very much a better kicking performance from her.

The 29-year-old Loughborough Lightning player has been excellent for Scotland during the run of seven wins and here she kicked two tricky conversions and two penalties to help the team over the line.

“The 100 percent kicking from Helen Nelson was very important given it was a two point game in the end,” Easson said.

“If you look at the first conversion it was right from the touchline and Claire Thomas [on TV commentary] called it elegant, she has been kicking with elegance lately and did so again in this game.

“She is a calm person and a big player for us.”

Round up and next up…

Next up in round two, Scotland will be at home this coming Saturday to take on world number three side France at Hive Stadium in Edinburgh. France opened up their campaign with a 38-17 bonus point win over Ireland in Le Mans on Saturday.

England are top of the table after a 48-0 bonus point win over Italy in Parma on Sunday despite having a player red carded early on.

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the images, Alex Stewart is pictured with Evie Gallagher

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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