Women’s 6N: Read all about it, Evie Gallagher is “the heartbeat of the Scotland team at the minute”

Gary Heatly

Scotland were left to wonder what might have been after Saturday’s tight loss to France in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations, but one of many plus points was the performance of No.8 Evie Gallagher.

In front of a record competition home crowd of 5,601 at Hive Stadium in Edinburgh, the visitors won the round two Guinness Women’s Six Nations match 15-5 after Scotland had led 5-3 at half-time thanks to a try by hooker Elis Martin and had an upset in their sights.

Defeat ended Scotland’s record seven-match winning streak, but this was a stellar effort and it shows how far they have come since a 55-0 defeat to France last year that they were frustrated not to have recorded a positive result.

And, in Gallagher, Scotland have one of the in-form players in the world right now.

Since missing the Rugby World Cup in late 2022 through injury, the 23-year-old ha played in Scotland’s last 11 Tests and has been a very consistent performer.

The Stirling County product who now plays in the English top flight for Bristol Bears was good against Wales in week one of the Six Nations and even better here.

Against France she made 13 carries for 44 metres, made 10 successful tackles including one dominant one and was a menace at the breakdown.

“For me, Evie is the heartbeat of this team at the minute,” her back-row mate and Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm said.

“She’s leading the way in terms of her carries. She’s not a massive No.8, but she punches well above her weight in everything she does. We’re not a team full of jacklers and she gives us that ability to turn ball over.

“She’s a properly good rugby player and she has had quite a bit of exposure at this level now and she is just getting better every single game.

“In the back-row we gel really nicely, especially with the addition of Alex Stewart as well and we are building a nice blend.

“Evie Gallagher is the future of Scottish rugby for me and she is phenomenal.”

Head coach Bryan Easson added:  “I thought the back-row were outstanding against France.

“Alex Stewart has grown in a really short space of time and her work rate is excellent. As Rachel says, there is a really good blend in there at the minute. Their tackle count is excellent, they are getting hands on ball and carrying well and it is great to see.”

In the game, France took the lead in the 13th minute of the second round clash when stand-off Lina Queyroi kicked a penalty.

Four minutes later, her opposite number Helen Nelson, who kicked all her goals last week in the win versus Wales, had the chance to level the scores, but she missed a penalty.

In the 27th minute France were on the attack, but Scotland’s defence was standing firm and they eventually held the visitors up over the try line.

In the 33rd minute Scotland had their best attacking moment to date, a lineout catch and drive seeing them go close to a try.

They did score three minutes later though, a similar move seeing Martin going over. Nelson could not convert and it was 5-3 at half-time.

France came out of the blocks flying after the break and winger Rhona Lloyd had to make a try saving tackle on full-back Emilie Boulard as the score stayed the same.

Replacement hooker Molly Wright was then forced off less than a minute after coming on due to a head injury. After a lengthy stoppage, France scored an unconverted try straight away in the 54th minute via winger Kelly Arbey and it was 8-5.

Queyroi’s penalty effort on the hour mark then hit the upright and the game was right in the balance until the final minutes before France replacement Emeline Gros scoring a try with the clock in the red to deny Scotland a losing bonus point. Queyroi converted.

“I’m super proud of the performance in terms of the effort, I was quite literally peeling my players off the ground at full-time,” Malcolm said.

“I can’t fault that and we stopped France playing the game they wanted to play.

“But I’m disappointed because we were quite inaccurate at times with our opportunities. Had we been more accurate the scoreline could have been in our favour.

“Now we’ve earned the respect. We’re sitting at the same table as these top teams now.

“However, we can’t just say it’s nice we’re getting closer, we need to look at why we’re not on the right side of that scoreline.”

Next up is England at home on April 13, they defeated Wales 46-10 on Saturday with a bonus point.

Scotland: Meryl Smith; Rhona Lloyd, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Coreen Grant; 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, Fiona McIntosh, Eva Donaldson, Mairi McDonald, Nicole Flynn, Chloe Rollie.

Thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for the main image of Evie Gallagher leafing through the match programme pre-France

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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