Ice cold Italy gave Scotland a lesson in finishing to leave Bryan Easson’s side with a mountain to climb to reach the main event in New Zealand.
Scotland got off to the worst possible start, conceding a penalty straight from kick-off which duly went to the corner, then over the try-line through Giada Franco.
Helen Nelson’s boot got Scotland on the scoreboard, and then her attempted dink over the top sparked some end-to-end entertainment when first Vittoria Minuzzi tiptoed through the Scotland defence, only for Italy to falter and allow Scotland to hack clear. Rhona Lloyd and Hannah Smith gave chase, and it was Smith who won a penalty at the breakdown.
WIth the game now settling into a rhythm as fast as thrash metal, it was Scotland who started to lose tempo.
A badly malfunctioning line-out frequently lost good field position and possession, Maria Magatti got past Chloe Rollie too easily to score – despite the best efforts of Rhona Lloyd – and another line-out overthrow from the usually reliable Lana Skeldon saw Italy clinically and expertly counter, scrum-half Sara Barattin providing the final strike.
Another Nelson penalty with just over 5mins in the half remaining gave Scotland hope of having one final scoring opportunity in the half, only for Ilaria Arrighetti to once again carve through Scotland’s fragile defence.
Half-Time: Italy 26 – 6 Scotland
With 20 points to make up in the second half under the scorching hot Parma sun, Scotland began brightly, winning a number of penalties in the opening 5mins. The last of these saw Nelson go for goal, but on this occasion she push her effort wide right.
Whereas Scotland huffed and puffed in possession, the Italians were slick and decisive.
Despite suffering line-out problems of their own, when they pounced on a loose Scotland pass Michela Sillari finished another wonderful counter-attack, exploiting space out wide then using soft hands and smart lines to twist the recovering defence inside out.
Manuela Furlan got on the end of Veronica Madia’s audacious outside-of-the-boot chip before Italy replacement Francesca Sgorbini was sent to the bin, but Scotland still couldn’t force their way over; the ball agonisingly ripped from Sarah Bonar’s grasp right on the try-line sparking another worrying Italian counter.
Lloyd dived over in the right hand corner after another Italian line-out had gone awry, this time only 5m from their line following a splendid kick from Lisa Thomson, and Sarah Law’s excellent conversion proved to be the last points scored of the match.
Scotland won’t face a higher ranked team in this mini-tournament, but they’ll still need to cut out the basic errors and start showing more composure in the danger areas if they’ve any chance of finishing second with Spain up next. What will please Bryan Easson though, will be a strong scrum performance which saw Scotland win 2 penalties against the head.
SRBlog POTM: back in Scotland uniform, Jade Konkel took on a lot of the carrying responsibility as the visitors tried to burst through the Italian barrier, while Emma Wassell and Christine Belisle also fronted up well, although the latter was yellow carded late on for a high tackle.
SCOTLAND: Chloe Rollie, Rhona Lloyd, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney, Helen Nelson,
Jenny Maxwell; Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm,
Louis McMillan, Jade Konkel
Replacements: Molly Wright, Lisa Cockburn, Katie Dougan, Rachel McLachlan, Evie Gallagher, Mairi McDonald,
Sarah Law, Liz Musgrove