After last week’s scrum-infested snoozefest, those who braved the soggy Sunday weather were treated to a far more entertaining match, but another disappointing result.
Japan started by showing some nice interplay upon receiving kick-off, but once into Scotland territory conceded a penalty at the breakdown when Jenny Maxwell, assisted by Louise McMillan, latched onto the ball on the deck.
Having turned defence into attack, Scotland soon scored. They tried down the right-hand side, but Hannah Smith was stopped, however after a few forward rumbles, there was space down the opposite flank which allowed Megan Gaffney a simple score. Helen Nelson’s conversion was not so easy, so Scotland had to settle for the 5 points.
Japan struck back almost instantly, Noriko Taniguchi finishing after some powerful running from openside Kyoko Hosokawa and lock Yuna Sato had punched through the defensive lines. Ai Hirayama missed the equally difficult conversion to Nelson’s to keep the scores tied.
As assistant coach Bryan Easson had suggested last week, the free-flowing style of the visiting nations men’s team has obviously filtered down to the women. A sensational dart up the middle of the pitch by impressive centre Kanako Kobayashi left Scotland floundering, and although Rhona Lloyd did well to stop Anna Kasai just short of the line, Seina Saito was there to pick up from the base of the ruck and go over.
Japan were exhibiting fine handling, angled runs and team cohesion, whereas Scotland would make some inroads, then a poor kicking option or handling error would halt momentum. It really was just like watching the men’s game all over again.
Scotland though, managed to gain a foothold. As well as being mashed in the scrums last week, the line-out was also misfiring, but with captain Rachel Malcolm restored back to hooker, it was operating a lot more smoothly this week.
After consecutive penalties went to touch, Scotland mauled their way over the whitewash, Lisa Cockburn, in for the injured Megan Kennedy awarded the score. The conversion attempt by Nelson crashed off the outside of the post.
Scotland had one last roll of the dice before the half ended,
but a knock-on halted the move after another surge from Hannah Smith had
Scotland in a decent position.
Half-time: Scotland 10 – 10 Japan
Hannah Smith had looked Scotland’s most potent attacking threat, and 2mins into the second half she had the crowd roar her on as she powered through the tackles up to the Japan 22, but another knock-on stopped Scotland in their tracks.
Another Scotland spill in midfield gave Japan a great opportunity. With the ball kicked ahead, Chloe Rollie and Taniguchi were in a footrace, which Rollie won, but was then tackled over the try-line to award Japan a 5m scrum. The first one was held up, but Japan were eventually forced into the error due to some good Scottish line-speed, giving Maxwell the put in.
Rhona Lloyd took possession after the scrum and ghosted past her opposite number into the Japanese half, where they were awarded a penalty for offside. The attempt at the maul was hauled down, but when Nelson attempted a cross-kick they gave possession back to Japan. Fortunately, a forward pass to Sachiko Kato meant the ball was returned to Scottish hands in a decent attacking position.
Smith and Rollie provided the dancing feet, Bonnar and Konkel the power. Konkel was stopped just 5m shy, but the ball was spun out left where Megan Gaffney was on hand to grab her second try of the afternoon.
Japan had realised they were getting hammered at the line-out, but an attempt at a cute, short one ended up in a spilt pass and being played from an offside position. Scotland kicked to touch and again were able to maul themselves over the try-line through captain Rachel Malcolm.
A high tackle by Lisa Thomson gave Japan a penalty on the Scotland 10m line, which they opted to scrum rather than take to the line or have a pop at goal. They spun it wide as early as possilbe, but Rollie pulled off a textbook piece of one-on-one defending on Kasai, using the touchline as assistance.
Japan had managed to hold onto possession though, and after another pair of scrums, eventually Makoto Ebuchi forced the ball on to the posts after a series of pick and gos. Perhaps crucially, with only seven minutes remaining, it was also the first converted score of the match.
And so it proved. After Scotland conceded a contentious penalty, when it looked like Japan’s Sora Konishi had made a double movement in the previous phase, Ayasa Otsuka was able to weave her way in under the sticks. The conversion made it 20-24 with only seconds remaining. Japan claimed the restart, took the ball into contact, checked with referee Munarini, and thumped it into the stands to leave Scotland 0 for 2 in the autumn.
Referee: Clara Munarini (FIR)
SRBlog Player of the Match: Hannah Smith. The most dangerous runner in the Scotland team, and didn’t seem to miss too much in terms of defence.
Attendance: 2, 263