Maybe lost in the unanimous feeling that Scotland’s Women are on a clear upward curve in the Six Nations was one, rather glaringly obvious thing – they hadn’t won a game yet.
Not for three years in the Six Nations, since Chloe Rollie’s famous length of the field try in Dublin. Not at home for four years. Never at Scotstoun, their base for the majority of home fixtures.
All that was put to rights with the 27-20 win over Wales on Saturday, a more comfortable victory than the scoreline suggests. It was a must-win, and they did.
‘We were the better team all the way through’
"A massive thank you to all of the supporters at home, we've felt the love and it means so much that people are at home cheering us on."
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) April 25, 2021
Head coach Bryan Easson felt it was their best performance of the championship – “but for couple of blips we were the better team all the way through” – but conceded the importance of actually securing a win.
“It’s been a long trek,” he said of the disrupted season with three-quarters of his squad not having any domestic week-to-week rugby and being confined to training and these internationals.
“We’ll take a lot of heart from that performance. But the win is hugely important, going into the World Cup qualifiers. We’ll enjoy this now and take a couple of weeks off.
“To go into that period with a victory under our belts, just to feel that confidence, will be crucial.”
Victory won in the forwards and in game management
Many thanks to everyone who has taken time to support and encourage this team. Their deserved victory yesterday was reward for the hard work and resilience they have shown over the past few months.
Your continued support is appreciated by all. Thanks. #AsOne https://t.co/7P0uFRK3GN
— Bryan Easson (@BryanEasson1) April 25, 2021
The Scots were true to their word of playing wide more often, and it was great to see Rollie and Megan Gaffney with the wind in their sails in this championship at last. But the game was really won in the forwards and in game management.
The pack, easily the lightest in this championship, are as well drilled at setpiece as any. Scotland’s lineout was outstanding against England, wobbled a little against Italy but was picture-perfect again against Wales.
The contrast with the visitors, who connected just three times and were reduced to tapping penalties because they couldn’t rely on securing lineout ball, was stark.
The Scots worked another outstanding lineout drive for a try scored by the outstanding Evie Gallacher.
The forwards showed patience at close quarters for one try each for the props, Megan Kennedy and Christine Belisle. All three were the first for their country for the try-scorers.
Megan Gaffney scored the other try inside five minutes – Scotland finally got their start to the game right.
Nelson’s varied game a key
Helen Nelson varied her game superbly at 10 and her kicking game was outstanding. A much-improved defensive organisation blunted counterattacks by Wales’ Jasmine Joyce, their main strike weapon.
The midfield trio of Nelson, Lisa Thomson and Hannah Smith – the latter restored after GB sevens duty – looks clearly the best available to the Scots in attack and defence.
Wales never gave up, and didn’t look like the team that were routed by France and Ireland. But under pressure at lineout and scrum, they were never able to assert a foothold. Their team speed and turnover ability – five holding on penalties forced – kept things entertaining.
Some additional credit for that should go to referee Clara Munarini and her Italian team. There was not a single card or TMO intervention all game, a rarity in modern rugby at the top level.
There were a few instances where a card might have been warranted. But Munarini was consistent and sympathetic to the players. Sometimes the newer law instructions seem intent on drumming that out of the game.
There was no malice or cynicism at work here, and she reffed accordingly.