Scotland crowned European champions; Rugby Union
SCOTLAND are champions of Europe in at least one sport. The women's rugby team carried off the trophy, beating Spain 15-3 on Saturday in the final in Lille, France, emerging from the competition without conceding a try.
After the nailbiting semifinal win over France, the previous holders, the final was a less tense affair, with the Scots taking an early lead as Jenny Dickson, the wing, slid round the blind side of a ruck to go over, and they extended it with Rimma Petlevannaya, the centre, battering her way to the line.
Paula Chalmers, the scrum half, who won the player of the tournament award, added a conversion and a late penalty, and although the Spanish threw everything into rescuing the game, the Scotland defence held firm.
"It was a tight match but we dominated the field position for most of the game and stuck it out to the end," Chalmers said yesterday. "We came on a mission to win and achieved just that. When the Spanish did manage to attack, they met a wall of blue that shut them out."
Apart from the heady enthusiasm at their triumph, there was also a considerable amount of satisfaction that they had proved a point to the managers of the National Lottery, who stopped funding for the side last year.
"Fortunately, the Scottish Rugby Union stepped in with aid, otherwise this would not have been possible," Chalmers said. "This is going to raise the profile of the women's game in Scotland a huge amount, and it gives us something to show the girls when they come to the summer camps, to show what can be achieved."
Rosy Hume, the team manager, said the key to the triumph had been, the link around the half backs, Chalmers and Denise Fairbairn, along with Jenni Sheerin, the no 8, the first woman to win 50 rugby caps for Scotland.
"Throughout the tournament, the defence, which had been a weakness in the past, was superb," Hume said. "We only conceded 12 points, all through kicks, and our discipline was also spot on with the team giving away very few penalties.
"The girls worked really hard for this. We came feeling we could win and although the heat in the final was formidable, we stuck to the task to come through in the end."
The real question is whether, having succeeded where the men failed, in capturing the European crown, the women's game in Scotland can use the victory to expand its profile ahead of the women's World Cup next year and the numbers taking part.
"I would hope that on the back of this, the lottery assistance will restart so that we can mount a strong challenge at the world cup," Hume said. "We need to start being able to bring the London-based players up for regular training sessions and organising weekends together."
Scotland do not win many European titles in any sport, so they are determined this triumph for women's rugby will be the foundation for an upsurge in interest in their sport.
The Times (London, England) (May 14, 2001): p5
Rugby's champion belles of the ball.
OUR rugby team performed abysmally in the Six Nations Championship and the footballers are struggling to qualify for the World Cup in 2002.
But in one fast-growing field of sporting endeavour, the Scots really can hold their heads up high - women's rugby.
Remarkably, the Scotland first XV, including three police officers, two nurses, a PE teacher, a sales representative and an insurance broker, have just been crowned European champions.
But lurking under all the talk of line-outs and scrum downs lie the more familiar women's concerns such as makeup, clubbing and boyfriends.
Flanker Fiona Gillanders admitted the women spend much longer doing their hair and makeup after the match than their male counterparts.
'It is something we are actively encouraging because we know we are role models. We enjoy looking smart and feminine - guys certainly like it. The image has changed and men now like to see feminine women with great bodies.
They run to us now, rather than run away.' Boyfriends watch their matches as often as they can and both sexes mix sociably in the post-match drinking sessions, in which the ladies always hold their own.
But Miss Gillanders admits that while they may look more feminine off the pitch, once they don the studs and get on the pitch they are every bit as aggressive as the men - gouging, scratching, kicking are all par for the course in the mauls, while punch-ups are not unusual.
One ploy which is used in the female game - less common in the men's - is pulling ponytails in a last-ditch attempt to stop opponents crossing the line.
Miss Gillanders laughed: 'If it's there to be pulled, then it will be as long as it stops the opponent scoring. It is a trick used by every women's rugby team.'
The Daily Mail (London, England) (May 15, 2001): p27
Sexy Denise is maul woman; SHE'S A RUGBY BABE
MOST women normally associate mud on their faces with beauty treatment.
But for a group of Scots it is the ultimate way to spend a Saturday afternoon - lying in it face down.
They are Scotland's women's rugby team, and they have just put one over their male counterparts by winning a major trophy.
They have rucked and mauled with the best of them, slaughtering - among others - top-scoring France and Spain, in the European Championships.
They carried off the honours in Lille, France, at the weekend, putting Scotland right at the very top of women's international rugby.
But while the mud that spatters them usually comes from the gritty turf of the rugby pitch, Denise Fairburn is a perfect example of how they can scrub up well off the pitch.
Stunning Denise, 29, hopes the team's success can inspire young girls into the game.
She said: "I am a PE teacher and I would encourage any young girls to play rugby - it's a great game.
"I usually play on the wing because I am only 9st so I don't get a lot of contact.
"For the final I played at stand-off but once you explain to girls how to make contact safe they really enjoy playing rugby.
"It's also a game in which I found I improved very quickly and that's always heartening."
Flanker Fiona Gillanders admits the team likes to spend plenty of time after a match putting on their make-up and getting their hair right.
She said: "It's something we are actively encouraging because we know we are role models. We enjoy looking smart and feminine.
"Times have changed and men now like to see feminine women with great bodies.
"They run to us now rather than run away."
The women's team lost their lottery funding last year - ironically for not being successful enough. That means they have had to compete all year against sponsored and paid-to-play teams.
But that has made Scotland's success all the sweeter.
Flanker Beth McLeod, 26, who has 34 caps, said: "We had a very hard game in the tournament against France in very hot weather.
"Then we met Spain in the final in even more extreme weather conditions.
"But the result was 15-3 to Scotland and the girls were just ecstatic. The atmosphere afterwards was terrific. We were all very excited."
Beth went on: "Rugby is just great fun and there's good social life too.
"The women's team and the men's teams usually meet up for drinks afterwards.
"We really enjoy ourselves."
HIGH KICKS: Denise Fairburn, pictured, left, in a glamourous dress and, above, in her training gear, fired Scotland to victory with crucial kicks; WING QUEEN: Star Angela Hutt glides past a Spanish player during Scotland's victory; GLAMOUROUS: But pretty Rimma Petlevannaya loves the rough and tumble of rugby; FLOWERS OF SCOTLAND: The team celebrates European success; SWEET VICTORY : Fiona Shepherd, Beth McLeod and Rimma Petlevannaya with the trophy
The Mirror (London, England) (May 16, 2001): p12