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Scotland’s Six Nations: Better defensively but blunt in attack



So close, yet so far. It seems even Scotland’s women can’t break the national sporting curse of promising so much and just coming up short.

Their Six Nations story actually looks remarkably similar to the men’s side in recent years. A historic win on the road in Wales, a narrow loss to France, and then a nail-biting defeat to Ireland.

There is a similarity too, in the manner of victories. Wins over Wales and Italy felt more like an risky heist rather than the comfortable victories that some of Scotland’s play threatened.

They struggled in the red zone, highlighted by the fact that they were the lowest point-scorers in the competition – despite ultimately finishing fourth.

They scored more tries than only Wales, and their attacking stats were largely down on last year. Fewer tries, carries, metres gained, line breaks, defenders beaten, tackles evaded, and entries in the opposition 22m.

Put simply, Scotland need to be far more clinical. The immense frustration for head coach Bryan Easson is that they have shown they are capable of such feats, having done it during WXV 2 when they won all of their games by a margin of 10 points or more.

They also have a back-line capable of piercing top-tier defences. Emma Orr is a dynamic runner, capable of bouncing off tackles and spotting a gap. Outside her, they have a back-three that Rachel Malcolm rightly called “world class” in Rhona Lloyd, Francesca McGhie and Chloe Rollie.

Of course, it’s not all about attack. Defensively, Scotland were sound and it was their solid base that almost led to a historic win over France.

They conceded only 104 points across the five games – almost half of which came against England. You have to go back to 2006 to find a Scotland defence more miserly.

Individually, 19-year-old Alex Stewart was one of the breakout stars of the tournament, making a tournament-high 74 tackles. Alongside her in the back-row, Evie Gallagher had seven breakdown steals – more than any other player – while Louise McMillan pinched seven line-outs.

Off the pitch too, there were plenty of positives. A sell-out crowd of 7,774 at the Hive Stadium against England set a new record for Scottish women’s rugby, and player names were on the back of the jerseys for the first time ever.

Players, coaches and fans might be feeling low on the trip back from Belfast; once the dust has settled, there is plenty to smile about.

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