Women’s 6N: GH Media’s very unofficial Scotland end of tournament awards

Gary Heatly

Scotland’s Guinness Women’s Six Nations campaign did not finish how they wanted it to, but there were still plenty of positives to take from the event in March and April.

A first win in Wales came in 20 years, a first win in Italy came in 25 years, they pushed France hard at home, there was a sell out crowd at Hive Stadium for the England game and new faces like Alex Stewart and Fiona McIntosh broke through.

Here are GH Media’s very unofficial Scotland end of tournament awards…

Scotland’s forward of the 6N: Evie Gallagher

A number of players put their hands up for this one with the back-row in particular standing out. Captain Rachel Malcolm, as always, led by example while newcomer Alex Stewart impressed everyone with her performances and calmness for one so young.

However, without wanting to sound like a broken record as she also won this prize after last year’s tournament and after WXV 2 late last year, No.8 Evie Gallagher gets the nod.

The 23-year-old made 68 tackles, made seven breakdown steals, made 54 carries and, once again, was just a menace for the opposition.

The Bristol Bears player played all 400 minutes in the competition and Malcolm said after the France match that Gallagher is “the heartbeat of this team at the minute” – and few can argue…

Scotland’s back of the 6N: Lisa Thomson

In the game against Wales, wingers Coreen Grant and Rhona Lloyd scored excellent tries, half backs Caity Mattinson and Helen Nelson linked up well at times and, when unleashed, 13 Emma Orr showed what she is capable of, but the winner is centre Lisa Thomson.

Her solid performances at 12 were all the more remarkable when you consider that between the France and England matches she went to Hong Kong with GB Sevens and then, the weekend after the tournament, was also playing in Singapore.

Against Wales, France and Italy in particular the Scotland defence put in a big shift in and 26-year-old 60-capper Thomson had a big part to play in marshalling the troops.

She played 360 minutes and made 55 carries including 11 line breaks. She also made 41 tackles while her kicking game was important at times and she scored a try versus Ireland.

Scotland’s young player of the 6N: Alex Stewart

There is a clear winner in this category in the shape of 19-year-old back-row Alex Stewart.

The openside played well for Corstorphine Cougars and then Edinburgh Rugby in the lead up to the event, but few would have believed that the previously uncapped law student would go on and start all five matches in the number seven jersey.

Against Wales on her debut apart from a late yellow card she was excellent and she just built from there. She seems level-headed and able to take on information easily and Scotland have some talent on their hands.

She made a table topping 74 tackles alongside Alex Callender from Wales during the campaign and she made 25 cleanouts. She will look to up her carrying stats going forward – 22 for 82 metres here in 334 minutes on the pitch – but that is nitpicking and the 102 attacking rucks she hit just shows that she has the energy of a Duracell bunny.

Nicole Flynn and Cieron Bell were both unused subs at time and their time will come.

Scotland’s unsung hero of the 6N: Elis Martin

Before the France game in round two 24-year-old hooker Elis Martin had only six caps to her name and all had come off the bench.

With Lana Skeldon injured she was asked to start that match and did a really good job and scored a try to give Scotland a half-time lead. After 51 minutes her “tank was empty” as head coach Bryan Easson remarked post-match, but 30 seconds after being taken off she was back on after Molly Wright sustained an injury.

Martin battled away for the rest of the game and, in general throughout the competition, she took her performances to the next level and can be proud of that.

In total the Leicester Tigers player started two games, played 187 minutes overall and scored two tries.

Also, an important ‘positive energy’ around the camp.

Scotland’s best shows of leadership of the 6N: Bouncing back from going behind against Wales and Italy and the way the squad rallied around Emma Wassell

Wales took the lead thanks to a penalty after five minutes in round one at Cardiff Arms Park and, in the past, Scotland teams may have gone into their shells.

But this time it took just a minute or so for the visitors to get up the  other end and score a brilliantly worked try from winger Coreen Grant that stand-off Helen Nelson converted.

In the end they went on to win 20-18 while, in round four in Parma, Scotland dominated the opening exchanges, but had no points on the board to show for it.

Italy took advantage, scoring a converted try with one of their first attacks, and Scotland could have been on the back food.

However, they showed calmness again and, almost straight away, hooker Lana Skeldon scored a converted try from a lineout maul.

Scotland went on to win 17-10 and their calmness under pressure, although still needing refined, is showing up more in big games like these two.

Secondly, Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm dedicated the win in Italy to team mate Emma Wassell’s mother Pauline after she passed away.

Second-row Wassell missed the games against England and the Italians after the sad news regarding her mum.

She came back for the Ireland game in round five and Malcolm said post-Italy:  “Pauline was ever present in our lives, she was an amazing supporter of this team and an incredible mum to Emma, indeed she was an incredible person.”

Scotland’s bring a smile to the face moments of the 6N: The celebrations in Wales, the record 6N home crowd versus England and the 90 Days play

Going into the Wales match, Scotland had won six Tests in a row and were going for a record seventh.

Although it was a very tight match in Cardiff they got over the line by two points in round one and to set that record shows that this team are going places and are still capable of a lot more. They have now won eight of the last 11 Tests and are world number six.

When Scotland took on England in the Six Nations match at the DAM Health Stadium – now the Hive – in late March 2022, 3,988 people were in attendance.

Fast forward just over two years and in round three there were 7,774 at Hive Stadium for the Guinness Women’s Six Nations match between the two sides.

It was a sell out and a record which can be built on.

Finally, during the weekend of that England game, at the Traverse Theatre in the capital there was a hugely successful three show run of a new play.

90 Days looks back at the history of women’s rugby north of the border and how the country put together and hosted the 1994 Rugby World Cup at short notice.

Most who attended, including many former and current internationalists including men’s hooker Johnny Matthews, were blown away by the show and let’s hope we see it elsewhere in the future…

Thanks to all who have helped with imagery in recent weeks

That’s GH Media’s coverage of Scotland Guinness Women’s Six Nations campaign for 2024 over, thanks to those who have supported and engaged with the content…

Thanks to those who have made this possible and if any companies/individuals are keen to support this work too, please email gary@gh-media.co.uk