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Scots Women left to rue one that got away, but plenty to build on

Ireland Women 18 Scotland Women 14

Scotland had 63 percent possession against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday, but were left to rue a sluggish first 20 minutes and an interception try as they lost out 18-14 in the Women’s Six Nations opener.

The visitors were 13-0 down after just 16 minutes before battling back to 13-7 at the break.

They then had most of the second half ‘go forward’ ball, but lost by four points to take just a losing bonus from Energia Park.

The visitors put in plenty of solid groundwork, but needed to be more clinical in the ‘22’ while the coaching staff and players will be scratching their heads wodering why it took until six minutes from the end for an Irish player to be sin-binned despite them conceding 13 penalties.

This will be a sore one for the squad to take, especially with England next up, but there were positives such as the performance of scrum-half Mairi McDonald on her first start and a pack that is getting stronger all the time.

The home side took the lead in the fifth minute when stand-off Ellen Murphy kicked a penalty.

Scotland tried to get their ball carriers into the game after that, like likes of skipper Rachel Malcolm and hooker Lana Skeldon making yards and young McDonald settling into things well.

However, it was Ireland who scored the first try in the 10th minute, hooker Cliodha Moloney showing good skills and making the most of some poor tackling to go over for a unconverted effort to make it 8-0.

Things got worse for the visitors in the 16th minute when Ireland created more space on the outside edge and centre Sene Naoupu took advantage to glide over. Murphy missed the conversion, but it was 13-0.

Scotland needed to get going – and quickly – and two good drives from clean lineout ball won them penalties and another lineout 10 metres from the home line.

That lineout was untidy though and the ball was knocked on and, like the Men’s team on Saturday, the Scots were making too many basic errors and the penalty count was too high.

After a clash with Scotland centre Hannah Smith, Moloney was forced off for an HIA – not to return – as the game headed towards the half hour mark.

The Scotland forwards were much more in the game heading towards half-time and the Irish must have been close to getting a player yellow carded.

In the final seconds of the half some good carries around the fringes then saw McDonald put centre Lisa Thompson in for a try having run a great line. Stand-off Helen Nelson converted, it was 13-7 at the break and it was game on.

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The home side started the second half well, but in the 48th minute Malcolm and winger Rhona Lloyd exchanged passes and had good breaks that took Scotland into the opposition ‘22’.

However, less panic was needed in such good positions if the Scots were to add to their tally.

In the 51st minute Nelson was forced off, Sarah Law replacing the 10.

Three minutes later winger Megan Gaffney and full-back Chloe Rollie had good breaks up the left, but again the chance was wasted and more composure was required.

Siobhan Cattigan then replaced Rachel McLachlan in the Scots back-row and a cracking run  by Rollie got them back into the Irish ‘22’ as the hour mark approached.

Lisa Cockburn then joined the action in the visiting front-row for Leah Bartlett and they nearly went over in the 64th minute through Smith.

Then came the sucker punch in the 67th minute, with the Scots metres away from the Irish line Law forced a pass and home winger Beibhinn Parsons read it well, intercepting and running in to score a try from 90 metres. Murphy missed the conversion, but the lead was 11 points at 18-7.

Back-row Louise McMillan and winger Evie Tonkin joined the action from the bench and in the 74th minute Ireland finally had a player yellow carded, replacement Leah Lyons the one to go.

And second-row Emma Wassell went over for Scotland, Skeldon nailing a tough conversion to make it 18-14 and set up an exciting last few minutes.

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Forward Molly Wright then entered the game as the Scots chased a winning try, but it was not to be and the players faces at the end said it all.

Scotland scorers: Tries: Thomson, Wassell. Cons: Nelson, Skeldon.

Scotland:

15 Chloe Rollie (Harlequins)

14 Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough Lightning)

13 Hannah Smith (Watsonians)

12 Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park)

11 Megan Gaffney (Watsonians)

10 Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning)

9 Mairi McDonald (Hillhead/Jordanhill)

1 Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning)

2 Lana Skeldon (Darlington Mowden Park)

3 Mairi Forsyth (Corstorphine Cougars)

4 Emma Wassell (Corstorphine Cougars)

5 Sarah Bonar (Loughborough Lightning)

6 Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning, C)

7 Rachel McLachlan (Darlington Mowden Park)

8 Jade Konkel (Harlequins)

Replacements:

16 Molly Wright (Watsonians)

17 Panashe Muzambe (Edinburgh University/Watsonians)

18 Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park)

19 Siobhan Cattigan (Stirling County)

20 Louise McMillan (Hillhead/Jordanhill)

21 Sarah Law (Darlington Mowden Park)

22 Evie Tonkin (Darlington Mowden Park)

23 Alex Wallace (Harrogate)

Next up for Scotland Women are England on Sunday, February 9 at 12.10pm at Scotstoun

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the photos of the try scorers

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