WXV 2: “We showed good composure against South Africa, now we can build from here,” says Bryan Easson

Gary Heatly

Scotland head coach Bryan Easson believes the composure and clarity of decision making that his charges showed on Friday in the WXV 2 opener is testament to the way the group is evolving.

By Easson’s own admission, the 31-17 bonus point win over South Africa was “scrappy”, but it shows how far Scotland have come in 2023 that they did not play at their best and still managed a fourth Test win in a row.

In the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch just outside Cape Town, Scotland led 17-10 at the break, but the victory was not in the bag until the 76th minute when try number five finished things off.

“I want to pay tribute to the leaders and the whole group out there on the pitch,” Easson said.

“When we are under pressure we haven’t probably always made such good decisions out there on the pitch with clarity, but the experience of the group now and the leadership of Rachel [Malcolm, the skipper] and her lieutenants is helping that and giving us that clarity.

“I’m really proud of everybody. We knew we were going to come up against a very physical side and we stuck to task. We knew that in the first 20 minutes everything was going to get thrown at us and I thought we showed good discipline and good composure just to do what we wanted to do.

“I thought the lineout was excellent and the lineout defence as well.

“Our maul looked excellent, we put them under a lot of pressure there. When we kept ball, that allowed us to get into good positions and show how good we are [in the driving maul situation].

“The game was scrappy, but we didn’t get into an arm-wrestle which was really good. We stuck to our processes, used the maul when it was on and took our chances.”

Easson also paid tribute to the impact of the replacements, stating:  “The bench came on and gave us some energy and that is a real positive for us.

“We know that wasn’t our best [performance], but when we are not performing the way we want to perform now we can change things and we can bring on a bench that brings that energy.

“That is real testament to the group.

“The heads didn’t go down after the disallowed try [from winger Francesca McGhie], we were the dominant team and we went on and showed that.

“We will take a lot from this and learn a lot that we take into USA.”

Easson also confirmed that it was a back spasm that forced Sarah Bonar to miss out late on, but he is confident the second-rower will be fit for the remaining two matches.

In the South Africa match, stand-off Libbie Janse van Rensburg had the home side 3-0 up early on before No.8 Evie Gallagher scored an unconverted try to give Scotland a two point lead.

Aseza Hele, the South African No.8, then powered over for a converted try to give her side a 10-5 advantage.

Twelve points came for Scotland in the last few minutes of the first half, player of the match Lana Skeldon, the hooker, scoring two tries from lineout drives with stand-off Helen Nelson converting one.

Scotland scored their bonus point fourth try in the 55th minute when loosehead prop Leah Bartlett went over from yet another lineout drive. Replacement Meryl Smith converted and it was 24-10.

With 16 minutes to go South Africa took a leaf out of the Scotland book and, from a lineout drive, replacement Roseline Botes the one to score the try. Van Rensburg converted and it was 24-17.

Scotland thought they had scored a try through winger Francesca McGhie in the 68th minute, but it was ruled out.

The final try to get Scotland over the line did come when centre Lisa Thomson burst with Smith converting to finish things off.

Italy also defeated Japan 28-15 with a bonus point on day one while USA take on Samoa on Saturday.

Scotland’s next match of three is against USA next Friday.

Scotland versus South Africa: Chloe Rollie; Rhona Lloyd, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Mairi McDonald; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Evie Gallagher. Subs: Elis Martin, Anne Young, Lisa Cockburn, Eva Donaldson, Jade Konkel, Caity Mattinson, Meryl Smith, Liz Musgrove.

Scotland scorers versus South Africa: Tries: Gallagher, Skeldon 2, Bartlett, Thomson. Cons: Nelson, Smith 2.

Scotland-South Africa highlights are here

Keep an eye out on GH Media’s channels for Scotland women’s coverage through to the end of WXV 2 in October…

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/World Rugby for the image from the South Africa match