The superior power and organisation of England’s Red Roses saw them cruise to the expected victory, but Scotland coach Bryan Easson can take some positives from the set-piece and fact that they forced the world’s best side into a quite ill-disciplined third quarter before they regained composure and added some final flourishes.
The frequently impressive Poppy Cleall, playing at no:8 instead of her usual position of lock, threatened first, picking up Zoe Aldcroft’s offload from her toes on the 22 and breaking through two tackles.
Scotland conceded a penalty, but playing with advantage and then off the set-piece, England twice attempted cross-field kicks which went too far.
As expected, most of the play was heading towards the Scotland line in the opening 10mins, – the visiting Scots only able to have one set of possession in their opponent’s half which didn’t last long -and Marlie Packer opened the scoring despite Rachel Malcolm’s best efforts to disrupt as they went over the line.
Leanne Riley was next to cross for England, but Lisa Thomson’s deep restarts had led to scuffed clearances and an attacking platform on both occasions.
Lana Skeldon’s darts were proving accurate, and after their first period in the English 22, Scotland were awarded the penalty from right in front of the posts. Helen Nelson knocked over to ensure there would be no “grannying” this year.
Lark Davies maul try was further example of England’s pack power, their line-out had come from a penalty turnover won when they had sent Scotland’s scrum going backwards and were quickly up on first, Siobahn Cattigan and then Mairi McDonald, but the line-out was going well for Scotland and they again got themselves into England’s 22.
A contentious bit of pilfering which seemed to annoy captain Rachel Malcolm allowed England to clear, and they then charged up the pitch to extend their lead, Bryony Cleall finishing off and Lisa Thomson also seeing a yellow card for an infringement in the build-up.
Jess Breach then took full advantage of that wee bit extra space by burning Rachel Shankland on the outside before cutting inside club teammate Chloe Rollie to score right on half-time.
Half-time: England 33 – 3 Scotland
At half-time Scotland made two changes, captain Malcolm, who had an issue with her knee, replaced by debutante Evie Gallagher and Rachel Shankland off for Liz Musgrove, and Musgrove had to look sharp to deal with a kick ahead with lightning-heeled Breach on her case.
Soon afterwards, Breach’s, er… breach(?), then left an easy finish for stand-off Helena Rowland within the opening 5mins of the second period.
Back to the full compliment of fifteen, good line-speed from Scotland forced a knock-on in the England 22, and a few penalties later, Poppy Cleall went into the bin for some hands in the ruck.
Hannah Smith nearly made it through, but a high tackle by her opposite number – the brilliant Emily Scarratt – gave Scotland another scrum from 5m and finally, after nearly 10mins camped in the England 22, Smith dummied and went over. Nelson, kicking into the wind, converted to get Scotland into double figures.
England hooker and earlier try-scorer Davies joined Cleall in the sin-bin to make it 13 v 15 for the following three minutes, but a long-pass from Helen Nelson didn’t reach Smith, who could only knock on.
The halt in momentum was only temporary as Thomson and Nelson combined to strip the ball back, and the England penalty count kept on rising, causing referee Aurelie Groizeleau to have a word with captain Scarratt.
Infuriatingly for the Scots, they lost the line-out and then with possession turned over, loosehead Molly Wright was red carded for a high tackle.
Although it seemed inevitable England would score, Scotland did well to hold them up for as long as possible, Smith with the rip on the line, but then knocking on as she tried to escape, and another high tackle – this time from other side replacement prop Lisa Cockburn – led to a 5m line-out and a Poppy Cleall pushover try.
Cleall thought she had bagged another pushover score but this time from the scrum, but Jenny Maxwell had done enough to make her spill the ball just as she went to dot down, and cost me some valuable fantasy league points.
A much better scrum from Scotland made Cleall pick up and have a drive, England butchered a chance out wide in their haste to get to the 50-point mark, but they hit the half-century via a penalty try.
SRBlog Player of the Match: the line-out triumvirate of thrower Skeldon, Emma Wassell and Louise McMillan kept England guessing, but after a relatively quiet first half, Hannah Smith stepped up to score a try and keep the Englad defence on their toes during Scotland’s best attacking spells.
Referee: Aurelie Groizeleau (FFR)
Scotland: Chloe Rollie, Rachel Shankland, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney, Helen Nelson,
Mairi McDonald; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan,
Rachel Malcolm(c), Rachel McLachlan, Siobhan Cattigan
Replacements: Molly Wright, Panashe Muzambe, Lisa Cockburn, Evie Gallagher, Jodie Rettie, Jenny Maxwell, Sarah Law, Liz Musgrove