Against all the odds the SRU, the RFU and the Six Nations committee agreed on an immediate and positive decision: the fixture, delayed by Storm Ciara, would be played the very next day.
This welcome news brought its own problems:
Would the mainly amateur Scottish team all be available on that next working day?
Would the media all be able to re-assemble, fully staffed?
Would the terms of the insurance cover be enough to reimburse all ticket-holders?
What would be the effect on the players of an empty stadium that held 67,000 spectators two days earlier?
How would the groundsman react to staging two internationals in three days?
Delighted as we all were to get the game played so soon, the players had to suffer. The weather started sunny; from 16 minutes in it varied from awful to ghastly, with snow, sleet and wind making playing conditions testing in the extreme. Last week it was ice-packs on the neck to cool down; this week hot-water bottles.
England gained their expected win with eight tries, but it took them a while to find their top gear as engines spluttered.
They went straight on the attack and inside three minutes Sarah Bern had added to her collection of tries. Emily Scarratt’s conversion brought her ever closer to Katy Daley-Mclean’s record points total of 537.
It took the Scots ten minutes to enter the English half, but they lost the ball at the line-out. That area remained a weakness for them throughout. With the scrum under strain, it meant that there were few chances to develop phases and exert their own pressure.
As the Red Roses’ bodies and minds came under the weather whip, so the scoring went quiet.
Mo Hunt’s nose complained about its treatment again, but she disregarded it with contempt.
It took Zoe Harrison a while to overcome early handling mishaps, but she showed her traditional composure by returning to top form, feeding her wide backs willingly and sending kicks to untenanted parts of Scottish territory. The skipper was happy to let Scarratt knock a penalty over. (0-10)
A fine passing move allowed Scarratt to launch an overhead pass to Jess Breach who at last was able to add to her harvest of tries, her first this calendar year. Once again the Thistles’ defence was caught narrow.
On 35 minutes Abby Dow showed her credentials once more with a quite outstanding try.
A Scottish kick was fielded by Harrison and fed inside; Dow took the ball on her own 10-metre line, shot through the middle, then veered right, fending two likely tacklers in her path and all the way to the line. It took her support cast a while to catch up and congratulate.
At this rate Lydia Thompson’s place on the right wing in any future final is under threat – an unimaginable call till recently.
A snowstorm. The show must go on.
The Red Roses had been well on top, but the conditions made point-scoring that much harder. The second half would see them move into overdrive as their superior fitness gave them more and more ball. The Scots had already registered 14 missed tackles.
The advertised description of this ‘more hospitable ground’ came under suspicion. Even Murrayfield couldn’t stave off the effects of the weather. The only change involved Siobhan Cattigan replacing Rachel McLachlan who had been injured earlier.
Zoe Harrison hoisted an enormous kick to get her side on the front foot. Now the fluency was with her side; the ball moved easily from hand to hand; Scarratt found Emily Scott who dummied and went over. That was the bonus point, England’s first of the campaign.
Harrison repeated her dose with a huge cross-kick to reach the far right corner. Dow couldn’t take it cleanly but tapped it backwards as she leapt, and Scott said thank you. (0-34)
This was the moment to start the changes: Amy Cokayne and Hannah Botterman came on.
Scott returned Dow the favour with a final pass. The pause gave everyone else the chance to huddle round hot water bottles. (0-39) A TMO intervention denied Breach a second try. A pass had slid forward.
An hour-and-a-half after the kick-off Sarah Hunter felt it was high time the pack got their reward. She dribbled the ball forward at a scrum and scored. As Scarratt converted, she came equal with Daley-Mclean’s points total of 537. Could she possibly overtake in the remaining minutes? Memo: she’s not one to perform a selfish act on the field. (0-46)
Eight minutes from time a clash of heads left Louise McMillan and Amelia Harper needing treatment. McMillan had to leave the field
The Player of the Match award seemed to come quite early. Decision: Emily Scott – a deserved reward for a player of huge talent.
But the scoring wasn’t over. Chloe Rollie made a sad error of judgement in defence, taking a quick line-out to herself; Claudia Macdonald pounced to score, as she has done so many times in recent seasons for club and country. Scarratt to kick… it goes over.
She beats the KD-M’s record!
And to put this in context: Katy has been fielding the ball during recent kicking sessions for Zoe Harrison and Emily Scarratt. Not a single kick herself; a remarkable example of selflessness.
Scotland could help themselves by sorting out more basic patterns behind the forwards. Too often when the ball emerged, nothing more was prepared than a single runner to the next collision. With pace aplenty on the wide outside, they need to put the ball through hands more willingly, or angle kicks that way.
Result: Scotland 0 England 53
Referee: Clara Munarini (FIR)
Player of the Match: Emily Scott
15. Chloe Rollie, 14. Rhona Lloyd, 13. Lisa Thomson, 12. Helen Nelson, 11. Evie Tonkin, 10. Sarah Law, 9. Mairi McDonald; 1. Leah Bartlett, 2. Lana Skeldon, 3. Mairi Forsyth, 4. Emma Wassell, 5. Sarah Bonar, 6. Rachel Malcolm (captain), 7. Rachel McLachlan, 8. Jade Konkel.
16. Molly Wright, 17. Panashe Muzambe, 18. Lisa Cockburn, 19. Siobhan Cattigan, 20. Louise McMillan, 21. Rachel Law, 22. Annabel Sergeant, 23. Alex Wallace.
15. Emily Scott, 14. Abby Dow, 13. Emily Scarratt, 12. Amber Reed, 11. Jess Breach, 10. Zoe Harrison, 9. Natasha Hunt; 1. Vickii Cornborough, 2. Lark Davies, 3. Sarah Bern, 4. Poppy Cleall, 5. Zoe Aldcroft, 6. Sarah Beckett, 7. Vicky Fleetwood, 8 Sarah Hunter (captain).
16. Amy Cokayne, 17. Hannah Botterman, 18. Shaunagh Brown, 19. Harriet Millar-Mills, 20. Amelia Harper, 21. Claudia MacDonald, 22. Katy Daley-Mclean, 23. Sarah McKenna.
England and Ireland top the table after two rounds with two wins each.
We now take a fortnight’s break from action.
What is the difference between £16 million and £0?
Answer: men and women’s rewards in the 6 Nations