2024 Women’s Six Nations: Scotland 0-46 England – The Talking Points

After an impressive performance against France, Scotland had hoped to back things up against the world’s number one team, but got blown away by an excellent Red Roses team and horrible weather conditions.

The talk from the camp before the game had not been about winning this game, but putting in a good performance and gaining respect, as they had against France the match before. England are so far ahead in their professional journey that comparing Scotland to the Red Roses isn’t useful but Scotland won’t feel they even reached the standards they set themselves to meet.

Last year Scotland conceded 10 tries in this fixture, this year it was 8; the defence was not at the level they managed against Wales and France. For me, it was their failure to show anything in attack that was disappointing, especially in front of a record home crowd.

In recent games against England, Scotland have at least managed a consolation score and come close to scoring other tries – Emma Orr was inches away in Newcastle, and the year before they had a try chalked off for a marginal knock-on at the line out.

Probably the most frustrating statistic from the game is that Scotland failed to get possession once in the England 22, and only had one line break late in the game. They also uncharacteristically failed to take advantage of playing 20-odd minutes with an additional player.

A lot of this was down to just how good the Red Roses’ defence was, flying up and shutting a lot of what Scotland did before they had a chance to get going. But Scotland are a better team than they showed. It felt like pretty much everything went wrong for Scotland, but here are some of the key areas that particularly stood out.

Continuing lineout struggles

Lineout has been such a key element to Scotland’s attack in the past year or so, with tries galore coming either directly from their excellent driving maul or from the attacking platform it sets up. The weather and the late loss of lineout caller Emma Wassell did not help, but a success rate of six from 14 continued the struggles we’ve seen this tournament.

Scotland tried to be ambitious and take risks for maximum reward, and perhaps the ambition will pay off when everything clicks, but Saturday may have been a day for careful solidity instead. Their driving maul looked pretty good when it got going – in fact their driving maul and maul defence may have been one area where Scotland were the better team – but Scotland really lacked a set piece to help them into the game, and nothing to build confidence from. The lack of a lineout platform held them back against France and hobbled them completely against England.

Attack lacks punch

This might have been the keenest that Jade Konkel’s absence has been felt (particularly with Sarah Bonar and Wassell missing too). Scotland struggled to get impact or momentum with their carries.

Throughout her career, Scotland have been able to rely on Konkel getting over the gain line with ball in hand and tying up defenders. Scotland admittedly had a low possession percentage, but Louise McMillan, who did carry well, was the only forward in double figures for carries and Scotland were not able to get the ball to their biggest carriers consistently in effective positions.

Given Scotland couldn’t power through in attack, their best bet could have been some fast-paced passing and deceptive running to try stress the England defence, especially when England went permanently down to 14, but Scotland’s ruck speed was once again slow, meaning they were pretty much always up facing a well-set defence.  

Scotland definitely have the players to do this – the detail in their attack was really evident against Wales and in WXV2. Perhaps this was just a bad day at the office, but it also added to the feeling that Scotland were not showing their potential or improvement when faced with a strong defence.

Struggles with the weather

For anyone not at the game, the conditions were probably even worse than they looked on the telly! Through a particular set of circumstances, they probably impacted Scotland more than England, although Scotland could and should have done better to manage them, particularly in the first half.

The scene was set in true Scottish style with a huge downpour during the anthems, with the wind sending rain vertically. That meant both teams were playing with a bar of soap in the opening quarter (which also meant more energy-sapping scrums).

The tricky handling snuffed out some England attacks but it also caused frustrating errors for the hosts, stopped Scotland from getting going too.

The wind was more gusty and swirling in the first half, but it was in Scotland’s favour. Disappointedly, despite the quality kickers in their team, Scotland couldn’t capitalise on any advantage here and find enough territory to put England under pressure.

Instead, the game was played largely in Scotland’s half. To have any chance, Scotland would have needed to fully utilise any wind advantage when they had it, but the slippery conditions made it harder for Scotland to have kicking opportunities not under pressure.

Things dried out in the second half, but the wind was now stronger and more consistent, to the extent that I occasionally worried the canvas roof of the stand was going to blow away, along with Scotland’s chances. A perhaps 10-15 point wind advantage first half, was now probably closer to a 20-25 one. 

Lisa Thomson is Scotland’s biggest distance kicker, and had switched to the bench after playing in the Hong Kong Sevens the weekend before. By the time she came on, there was little she could do to clear Scotland’s lines, with the ball being constantly held up in the air, or swerving wildly off course.

Scotland kicked too much when the wind made kicking futile.

Maybe if they were playing things the other way round Scotland might have found themselves further behind at half time, but better able to make a good showing in the second half. But they have to improve at using any advantage they have when they have it playing the top teams.

Searching for some positives

Scotland certainly didn’t lack for effort and one bright spot was that again Evie Gallagher stood out, making 17 out of 18 tackles, the highest for Scotland, as well as mopping up when the pressure was on at the scrum. Even after an exhausting 70 or so minutes, she was still so visible putting in the work despite the tough scoreline. Elliann Clarke was also superb off the bench, winning two turnovers, a scrum penalty and making 7 tackles in 28 minutes.

And the other source of comfort is it feels like we’ve been here before, but Scotland can get over it.

Last year, Scotland were only a couple of points down in their second W6N match, before a late try from their opponents (that time Wales) ended their hopes. In round 3, they went away to France and put in their worst performance of 2023, losing 55-0.

This year, they faced similar second round heartbreak against France, and their performance level seemed to fall away in the following match.

Last year, round 4 was the start of that historic seven-game winning streak, against next opponents Italy. They developed such resilience during the difficult times before that, I feel optimistic there won’t be a hangover from this disappointing performance. Italy away is a big challenge for Scotland – they haven’t won on Italian soil since 1999 – but it is also an opportunity to show that the England match was a blip on an upward trajectory for 2024.

The post 2024 Women’s Six Nations: Scotland 0-46 England – The Talking Points appeared first on Scottish Rugby Blog.

Search this website