By Gary Heatly
It was a tough Women’s Six Nations opener for Scotland at Castle Park in Doncaster on Saturday afternoon, but Bryan Easson’s charges have to dust themselves down quickly.
The 52-10 reverse means that their final Pool A match with Italy is, as was always likely to be the case, a big one on April 17 at Scotstoun in Glasgow.
Finals Day is then on April 24, but all eyes are on Italy, so here are six takeaways from the England match…
The team cannot afford another slow start
Scotland were 12-0 down against England after just 18 minutes and that was always going to be hard to come back from. Key to a good start in any match is how you exit and the Scots did not do that well enough which invited pressure onto them. The first 20 minutes it has to be about getting the basics right and settling into structures and patterns of play.
The second-row pairing showed promise
With Sarah Bonar stepping back from Scotland duty currently to concentrate on Army training, Emma Wassell has lost her second-row partner. She was joined in the second-row on Saturday by Louise McMillan who has usually played in the back-row. However, the Hillhead/Jordanhill player fitted in well there and the lineout went well as they linked with hooker Lana Skeldon – something to build on.
Belief still has to improve
During the week leading up to the match Scotland Vice-Captain Helen Nelson had talked about the squad not putting the England players on a pedestal, stating “they are human at the end of the day”. Sadly, it took some of her team mates 40 minutes to realise that because when they did get at England after half-time they caused them problems, that comes down to individual belief and belief as a group and it still has to improve.
There is some good, young talent coming through
Twenty-year-old back-row Evie Gallagher’s debut was cut short, but she showed promise when she was on the pitch. The Stirling County player came on at half-time for injured skipper Rachel Malcolm and she was not overawed. She had to come off in the 63rd minute as part of the re-jig following a red card, but as one of four newbies named in the extended squad it will be interesting to see if others get a chance against Italy.
Discipline needs to be looked at
It was never really a fractious match, but Scotland conceded 10 penalties and saw one player red carded and two yellow carded. The way the game is being refereed worldwide at the moment there is just no margin for error and it is very hard to play when you are shorthanded. Against Italy Scotland will need to keep 15 players on the pitch if they are to get a win. No doubt discipline will be a hot topic in the next 13 days or so in camp.
Belisle looked good at tighthead prop
Christine Belisle has mainly played second-row or back-row in her career to date, so with Megan Kennedy injured it was a big call to select her in the number three shirt versus England. However, it was proven to be the right call and the 27-year-old Cartha player gave as good as she got and showed why Easson and the Scotland coaching team rate her so highly – she certainly never takes a backward step.
— Women's Six Nations (@Womens6Nations) April 3, 2021
England: Tries: Packer (9), Riley (18), Davies (28), B Cleall (35), Breach (39), Rowland (44), P Cleall (71), Penalty try (seven points, 78). Cons: Scarratt 5 (9, 28, 35, 39, 44).
Scotland: Try: Smith (55). Pen: Nelson (23). Con: Nelson (55).
England: S McKenna; L Thompson, E Scarratt (C), L Tuima, J Breach; H Rowland, L Riley; V Cornborough, L Davies, B Cleall, A Ward, C O’Donnell, Z Aldcroft, M Packer, P Cleall. Subs: A Cokayne, D Harper, S Brown, H Millar-Mills, V Fleetwood, C MacDonald, M Jones, E Kildunne.
Scotland: C Rollie; R Shankland, H Smith, L Thomson, M Gaffney; H Nelson, M McDonald; L Bartlett, L Skeldon, C Belisle, E Wassell, L McMillan, R Malcolm (C), R McLachlan, S Cattigan. Subs: M Wright, P Muzambe, L Cockburn, E Gallagher, J Rettie, J Maxwell, S Law, L Musgrove.
A Groizeleau (France).
Thanks to Scottish Rugby and Six Nations/Inpho Photography for the main photos