Philip Doyle, Scotland’s new boss, is not a man to mince his words. Some of his most devastating last month ran like this: ‘I have inherited an incredibly weak scrum’.
As Scotland’s latest match against Wales unfolded, the truth of the matter was placed before our eyes.
For most of the game the Welsh pack held the aces; they gained ground, they won penalties and caused pain to some of their opponents. This setback puts Scotland’s recent tour of South Africa into sharp relief. There they enjoyed a superiority up front that allowed their talented backs the time and space to gain two fine victories. At Scotstoun however this supply dried up, so the backs had to look for the off-chance to gain ground.
Wales held most of the trump cards. They stand two places higher than their opponents in world rankings and have already qualified for the next World Cup. They gave debuts to Robyn Lock, Niamh Terry and Rebekah O’Loughlin. Scotland were missing the influential figure of Hannah Smith in the centre, but welcomed back Lisa Martin (her 50th cap) and Megan Gaffney.
Welsh dominance up front that so marked it was no surprise their first score came from a driving maul. Try Bethan Lewis (0-5) Their second was quite different: a delightful handling movement ended with a deft grubber from full-back Lauren Smith which Lisa Neumann collected to go over on the left. (0-10)
Scotland opened their account with a fine penalty by Helen Nelson from just inside the Welsh 10-metre line. (3-10)
The disparity in strength up front was starkly revealed when first Megan Kennedy had to be stretchered off after a scrum, then Emma Wassell was carded for a side entry as her pack was forced rearwards. It was almost inevitable that Nikki O’Donnell had to run under the posts as the Welsh pack caused all sorts of bother near the Scottish line.
It’s to the hosts’ great credit that no further scoring took place in the second half. But that meant too that they were unable to reap the benefit of having two devastating runners in Rhona Lloyd and Chloe Rollie. Lloyd’s sallies started from too far back with too little space created for her; Rollie made typical thrusts at high speed, but her support couldn’t take them further. They did get over the line with an intercept, but sadly an earlier knock-on confounded their hopes.
Elinor Snowsill was the deserving Player of the Match. She controlled the shape of the game through her range of passes and her acute tactical kicks.
The Scots now have much less familiar opponents turning up next week at Scotstoun, Japan.
Result: Scotland 3 Wales 17
Scotland: Megan Kennedy, Jodie Rettie, Mairi Forsyth, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm (captain), Louise McMillan, Jade Konkel, Mhairi Grieve, Lisa Martin, Megan Gaffney, Helen Nelson, Lisa Thomson, Rhona Lloyd, Chloe Rollie
Bench: Panashe Muzambe, Lisa Cockburn for Kennedy (46 mins), Christine Belisle, Rachel McLachlan for Rettie (HIA) (51 mins), for Rettie (51 mins), Evie Tonkin for Gaffney (66 mins), Jenny Maxwell for Grieve (46 mins), Sarah Denholm for Martin (61 mins), Abi Evans
Wales: Gwenllian Pyrs, Kelsey Jones, Carys Hale, Natalie John, Gwen Crabb, Robyn Lock, Siwan Lillicrap, Bethan Lewis, Niamh Terry, Elinor Snowsill, Lisa Neumann, Kerin Lake, Megan Webb, Rebekah O’Loughlan, Lauren Smith
Bench: Molly Kelly, Gwenllian Jenkins, Sarah Lawrence, Abbie Fleming, Alex Callender, Ffion Lewis, Kayleigh Powell, Paige Randall.
Referee: Nikki O’Donnell