Sunday, 22 March 1998

Scotland win Grand Slam

Scotland 8 England 5

STRANGE days at Inverleith, the old Edinburgh ground that is steeped in the proud history - and the recent under-achievement - of its home club, Stewart's-Melville. On Friday it played host to a Grand Slam by the Scotland A team and yesterday it provided another for Scotland's women, who completed their clean sweep with this battling win over England. Who says you don't see Scottish Grand Slams every day of the week?

Granted, the opportunity for another this afternoon has already been lost, but even if they were small in number, the crowd at this match could still savour their day. Scotland were not flattered one bit by the scoreline at the end and, from having been among the rabbits of the last Women's World Cup in 1994, they can now go forward to the next tournament, in Holland in May, with confidence soaring. The spirits of England, the world champions, however, are in need of urgent restoration.

Most of England's best attacks were ignited by Emma Mitchell, whose all-round excellence at scrum-half provided a vivid sub-text to the game. Indeed, Mitchell probably kept England in the game during the first half.

Her assuredness was important when Scotland tried to raise the pace after their first try. That arrived in the 12th minute when Linda Uttley knocked-on near her 22 and Scotland were awarded a scrum. Paula Chalmers moved the ball left and although Michelle Cave and Pogo Paterson almost ruined the move with a fumble in midfield, Kim Littlejohn, the Scottish captain, both resuscitated the attack and finished it off, arcing round the defence to the left corner.

With more ball, Scotland might have capitalised further, for there was a wonderful eagerness about their play. England, by contrast, were leaden, and prone to horrible handling lapses all along the three-quarter line. Yet England took their example from Mitchell and the fly-half, Giselle Pragnell, and it was through their composure that they clawed their way back.

More significantly, they also hauled themselves onto the scoreboard before half-time, levelling with a wonderful try. It came in the 32nd minute when a rumbling charge down the left touchline by Maxine Edwards drew in the Scottish defence, Mitchell switched play to the right and a looping move by Pragnell allowed Pip Spivey to sprint in by the flag.

Some people still claim women's rugby is strange spectacle, but the only truly bizarre sight was that of a Scottish scrum destroying English opposition. The Scots spent much of the third quarter camped on England's line, yet despite a clear advantage in the set-piece, they could not quite find the extra ounce of power to surge over.

Indeed, Scotland seemed more sapped by the experience, as England swept back upfield with determination. Gill Burns, however, was spotted stamping in a ruck and, when Scotland grafted their way back into English territory, it was more Burns footwork that again cost England dear. Foolishly, the English No 8 did the deed on her own 22 this time, and Chalmers swept the penalty home.

The kick secured the win for Scotland and secured the status of a sport that has had more than its fair share of detractors in this part of the world. Certainly, you could pick critically at some of the quality of the game, particularly the goal-kicking. But the attitude and spirit of the Scottish side was second to none.

Scotland: A McGrandles; D Fairbairn, P Paterson, K Littlejohn, M Cave; R Lewis, P Chalmers; J Taylor (L Allsopp 52min), S Scott (A McKenzie 40min), K Findlay, L Cockburn, M McHardy, J Afseth, D Kennedy, B McLeod (J Sheerin 40min).

England: P George; P Spivey, S Day, S Harris (S Appleby 71min), N Brown (J Molyneux 71min); G Pragnell, E Mitchell; T O'Reilly, J Potter (J Smith 63min), M Edwards, L Uttley, T Siwek, J Ross, G Burns, G Stevens.

Scorers: Scotland: Try: Littlejohn. Pen: Chalmers.

England: Try: Spivey.

Referee: P Sleeman (Wales).

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1998

Source Citation
Reid, Alasdair. "Scottish women set the scene with Grand Slam victory; Rugby Union." Sunday Times [London, England] 22 Mar. 1998

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