Source: 6 Nations

Scotland sniff Glory

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Italy v Scotland – Round Four

Only the players’ parents might be able to remember the last time the Scots won away in Italy, but this was a sequence they were desperate to end. That vital third place in the table would mean the chance to mix it with the big guns in WXV1 next time round.

In a tense game of few scores the Scots finally moved ahead of their hosts and stayed there. There was plenty of tension as the crowd roared their favourites on to greater deeds. But once again they failed to achieve the targets that I, among many others, thought they were perfectly capable of.

It’s not often you see three players running out ahead of their team-mates at the start. But Rhona Lloyd, Veronica Madia and Isabella Locatelli were all celebrating their fiftieth cap. Another novelty, two bands had played their respective national anthems, bagpipes bringing Scotland a little bit closer to Parma.

It was a strangely shaped match. For most of it the scores were level, 0-0 then 7-7.

Scottish eyes were pleased to see their pack get the better of the opposition in the opening stages, a feature rarely visible in past seasons. But errors, forced and unforced, continued to dog the Thistles’ progress. A catch-and-drive faltered only with a knock-on close to the line. Very frustrating. At least the line-out was functioning more securely than in earlier rounds. But after five accurate throws came the almost inevitable overthrow.

Half an hour passed before the first score. The Azzurre won a line-out, the ball moved smoothly into midfield for Alyssa D’Incа, now operating at outside-centre, to exploit a gap and roar through. That was her third offering in a row for her team. 7-0

The Scots now showed their ability not to be upset by downturns. They responded with a try within three minutes. They won a ruck penalty; Nelson popped the ball into the left corner, and Lana Skeldon had her sixteenth try by her usual means. 7-7

A change of props at half-time worked nicely for Scotland; they won an early penalty. The trouble was their ruck speed. It simply wasn’t quick enough for the backs to exploit gaps created by a retreating defence. But Italy were guilty of the same fault. Either the ball wouldn’t be presented carefully enough by the carrier or feet would get in the way of a quick release to the scrum-half.

But as the three-quarter mark approached, the Scots had reason to be confident; they were enjoying 68% possession. Sure enough, a long kick by Lisa Thomson deep into space brought results. As two players tussled for possession, the ball was laid on a plate for Emma Orr to pick up and trot over the few extra metres. 7-12

Scotland were right on top, but they had to be patient. Not for the first time this season, they pounded away at the line, unable to find a way through. The attack coach really must work on this aspect of the game. ‘Heads up, eyes open!’ might be a starting point.

When finally the ball was sent wide, Chloe Rollie was able to dip into her memory bag and produce one of her mesmerising runs to the line. 7-17

That lead should have made the game safe, but we were dealing with two sides still unfamiliar with regular success. Sure enough, the Azzurre came three points closer with a Rigoni penalty kick. 10-17

That choice was interesting in itself. The old dilemma: go for the corner and a possible seven points, or take the three on offer? There they had taken the other option in the past and paid for it.

Mairi McDonald may have been justified in opting for an ultra-slow, deliberate box-kick, but it allowed Italy to sort their defensive positions. As they mounted another attack, they won that penalty, but were unable to add the vital extra points needed.

You could sense the problems facing both head coaches: promising moves would break down some distance short of the line, caused by an imperfectly set ruck, an inaccurate pass, or lack of close support. That is the game many of us will be familiar with; at international level it can lead only to grief at lost opportunities, or, when the dice fall the right way, untold joy.

If either of these sides does manage to achieve third place in the table, then we must expect their fate to be similar to Wales’ last year on the world stage. A losing bonus point for Italy hardly makes up for their disappointment.

Result: Italy 10 Scotland 17
Player of the Match: Lana Skeldon



15 Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi 14 Aura Muzzo 13 Alyssa D’Incа 12 Beatrice Rigoni 11 Francesca Granzotto 10 Veronica Madia 9 Sofia Stefan 1 Silvia Turani 2 Vittoria Vecchini 3 Sara Seye 4 Sara Tounesi 5 Giordana Duca 6 Ilaria Arrighetti 7 Francesca Sgorbini 8 Elisa Giordano (captain)

16 Laura Gurioli 17 Gaia Maris 18 Lucia Gai 19 Valeria Fedrighi 20 Isabella Locatelli 21 Beatrice Veronese 22 *Sara Mannini 23 Beatrice Capomaggi


15 Chloe Rollie 14 Rhona Lloyd 13 Emma Orr 12 Lisa Thomson 11 Francesca McGhie 10 Helen Nelson 9 Caity Mattinson 1 Molly Wright 2 Lana Skeldon 3 Christine Belisle 4 Eva Donaldson 5 Louise McMillan 6 Rachel Malcolm (captain) 7 Alex Stewart 8 Evie Gallagher

16 Elis Martin 17 Leah Bartlett 18 Elliann Clarke 19 Fi McIntosh 20 Rachel McLachlan 21 Mairi McDonald 22 Meryl Smith 23 Coreen Grant

Referee: Maggie Cogger-Orr (NZR)

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