Report: USA 14-24 Scotland
A momentous milestone was achieved at Athlone Sport Stadium in Cape Town as Scotland Women secured their second win of WXV2 with a 24-14 win over USA, the country’s fifth consecutive win, a first since 2001.
Scotland spent the opening 10 minutes solidly defending against the USA Eagles, displaying a calm and collected effort.
Whilst it was somewhat a frustrating start to go without ball in hand for that length of time, Scotland were finally rewarded for their patience when Francesca McGhie sailed across the whitewash on the eleventh minute. A Scottish scrum on the halfway was followed by a move straight from the training paddock with Lisa Thomson shipping the ball to her centre partner, Emma Orr who worked hard to draw in two USA defenders before offloading to speedy McGhie whose fancy footwork got her round the full back and across the line. Helen Nelson was lined up for the kick but with windy conditions in Cape Town, the ball was unfortunate to bounce off the sticks. [0-5].
Galvanised by their breakthrough, Scotland were quick to strike again, and some four minutes later Lisa Thomson set up the perfect position for the women in blue as she showcased her powerful boot, serving a 50:22 to gift Scotland a lineout inside USA’s territory, and ultimately the chance to strike from a platform which has been fruitful for Scotland as of late.
The ball was secured safely at the lineout and the forward pack drove play forward to gain ground before sharp phases of attacking play from the back line took Scotland meters from the line. Keeping play tight, the forwards dug deep to inch themselves forward with each drive. And on minute 16, it was lock Emma Wassell who powered her way across the whitewash, scoring her first try since returning from injury. Nelson’s conversion this time sailed through the sticks to extend Scotland’s lead. [0-12]
From the restart, Scotland were being asked to defend USA once again, and did so well, piling the pressure on their opposition to force a pass which found touch to gift Scotland another lineout. From there, Scotland shipped the ball across the pitch. Lisa Thomson gave an excellent offload to Rachel McLachlan mere moments before USA took her down, allowing McLachlan to link up with Rhona Lloyd who weaved her way down the wing to score her 21st try for Scotland, aptly, verging on the 21st minute of the game [0-17].
There was another glimmer of hope for Scotland as last week’s Mastercard Player of the Match, Lana Skeldon, made a powerful break through the midfield. After a handful of phases, scrum-half Mairi McDonald darted across the line but was held up.
Scotland were piling on the pressure, and in the 28th minute an ambitious box-kick from McDonald inside USA’s 22 into space was chased by Lloyd, who looked to be on for a brace. However, it went just a little too far, landing beyond the dead-ball area.
The remaining 10 minutes closed in a similar fashion to the opening, with Scotland defending for the large part. A series of penalties conceded by Scotland gave USA a strong platform for points, but Scotland worked hard to shut down every threat.
In minute 36, the Eagles thought they were in after charging down Nelson’s clearance kick from the Scottish scrum. In their scramble to dot the ball down, USA flanker Freda Tafuna was deemed to have knocked the ball on by the TMO.
In Scotland’s next opportunity to exit, the USA gathered and fronted up to attack the Scottish line. Approaching the Scottish 10m line, Eagles winger Tess Feury put a nifty grubber through the gap but it was gathered by Chloe Rollie, who offloaded the ball to Leah Bartlett. Unfortunately, the Scottish prop was penalised by the referee for holding on, gifting USA a penalty just five meters out. A kick to touch gave the Eagles a lineout, and their forward pack worked hard to drive Scotland back with Charli Jacoby dotting down. Gabby Cantora added the extras, and the half-time whistle was blown [7-27].
HALF-TIME: USA 7-17 Scotland
The first 10 minutes of the second hand was a scrappy exchange, with possession changing hands a number of times. In the 50th minute Scotland made a series of changes to reward the work of McLachlan, McDonald and Nelson who were replaced by Jade Konkel, Caity Mattinson and Meryl Smith respectively.
There chances for Scotland to score again in the 59th minute when Scotland stole the Eagles’ ball in the lineout. The ball was released to Evie Gallagher who stormed her way through the midfield to take Scotland deep into the Eagles 22, but the next phase of play saw a low-delivered ball slip through the hands of Konkel, giving their opposition a scrum on their 10-metre line.
Scotland’s pack was rampant in the scrum, with the Eagles penalised for wheeling. Thomson kicked for the corner, and it was soon time to get the scoreboard ticking again.
The forwards did well to hold onto ball at the lineout and draw in the defending players, creating huge gaps along the right wing. Quick ball went through Konkel to Smith, who’s offload reached Chloe Rollie. The fullback dummied and dashed her away across the line to bag Scotland a bonus point-try in the 61st minute. Smith added the extras to give Scotland a 17-point lead [7-24].
The Eagles looked to strike back and nearly had the chance to do so, after working hard to reach Scotland’s five metre line, but Gallagher had other things to say about it and put in an incredible cover tackle on USA winger Feury, forcing her to lose the ball just as she looked to dot down.
But in the 66th minute, USA scored their second try of the match following a lineout inside Scotland 22, with Paige Stathopoulos breaking away from the maul and through the gap in Scotland’s blue wall [14-24].
Just as Scotland entered the final 10 minutes of play, it looked like Scotland were in for a fifth when side-stepper Rollie cut through the defence and round her opposite player, Bulou Mataitoga, but Taina Tukuafu returned the cover-tackle favour, knocking the ball from Rollie’s grasp just as she looked to ground it.
The Eagles seemed ever determined to score again, but Scotland were not having it, defending relentlessly. The work paid off with Caity Mattinson’s and Konkel’s combined efforts to start a maul and trap the ball from USA and ultimately turn the ball over inside USA’s 22.
Scotland worked so hard to make something of their possession and territory, but the ball was lost by Thomson and the match was concluded with a scrum, which was expertly stolen by Scotland and kicked out to touch by Smith for the full-time whistle to be blown and conclude a colossal performance from Scotland.
FULL-TIME: USA 14 24 Scotland
Mastercard Player of the Match: Evie Gallagher (Scotland)
Scotland: Chloe Rollie (Loughborough Lightning); Rhona Lloyd (GB 7s), Emma Orr (Heriot’s / Biggar), Lisa Thomson (GB 7s), Francesca McGhie (Leicester Tigers); Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Mairi McDonald (Exeter Chiefs); Leah Bartlett (Leicester Tigers), Lana Skeldon (Worcester Warriors), Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning), Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), Louise McMillan (Saracens), Rachel Malcolm CAPTAIN (Loughborough Lightning), Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks), Evie Gallagher (Worcester Warriors).
Replacements: Elis Martin (Leicester Tigers) on for Lana Skeldon (80 mins), Anne Young (Sale Sharks) on for Bartlett (70 mins), Lisa Cockburn (Worcester Warriors) for Belisle (70 mins), Eva Donaldson (Leicester Tigers) on for McMillan (31 mins, 80 mins), Jade Konkel (Harlequins) on for McLachlan (48 mins), Caity Mattinson (Worcester Warriors) on for McDonald (48 mins), Meryl Smith (Bristol Bears) on for Nelson (48 mins), Liz Musgrove (Ealing Trailfinders) on for McGhie (80 mins)
USA: Bulou Mataitoga; Tess Feury, Kate Zackary CAPTAIN, Atumata Hingano, Lotte Clapp; Gabriella Cantorna, Carly Waters; Catherine Benson, Kathryn Treder, Charli Jacoby, Hallie Taufoou, Erica Jarrell, Freda Tafuna, Tahlia Brody, Rachel Johnson
Replacements: Paige Stathopoulos, Mona Lise Tupou, Keia Mae Sagapolu, Jenny Kronish, Rachel Ehrecke, Taina Tukuafu, Katana Howard, Autumn Czaplicki.