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GLENCOE’S Helen Nelson turned out for Scotland Women in the first game of the Six Nations on a cold but still day at Parc Eirias in North Wales with the home team just fighting off a determined Scottish comeback.
Scotland recorded a victory over Wales in the last campaign in a tense and tight affair at Broadwood and both sides were eager to show what they are capable of in this year’s championship.
A cagey opening start from Scotland gave the home team plenty of possession but they seemed to have escaped without conceding when they cleared their lines.
It wasn’t long before Wales came again, however, and worked the ball well down the wing after some patient build-up to score in the corner.
A couple of strong lineout drives put the Welsh backs in good space but a dropped ball in space let off the narrow Scottish defence. The visiting scrum, which had struggled up to this point, was much firmer this time round and Helen Nelson was able to find a good touch.
The Scots’ scrum continued to grow and with it some confidence in open play and they enjoyed their best period of play so far. But to no avail as a loose kick to the Welsh back three gave the hosts possession to build from.
Some good defence from Scotland ended in a penalty to Wales as some aggressive work over the ball was pulled up for the tackler not releasing. The chance was duly converted by Evans to stretch Wales’ lead to eight.
Scotland were gifted a platform from the restart when Wales knocked forward in their 22 and consistent Welsh infringements gave Scotland penalties and subsequent lineouts on the five-metre line.
They carried patiently and powerfully but Wales were equal to them and held out before a head injury assessment for Wales’ debutant Jade Knight caused a break in play.
The visitors restarting scrum held firm but came to nothing as they were penalised for a ball carrier not releasing.
Once again, play moved back into Scottish territory but a fumble, hack and spill trying to gather the ballgave Scotland’s resurgent scrum the opportunity to win a penalty and clear.
With minutes left on the clock, Wales were able to capitalise on some messy play to drive deeper into Scottish territory and set themselves up with a scrum penalty.
The quick tap was effective, and Hannah Bluck scored to round off the half.
Half time: Wales 13–0 Scotland.
A number of positional and personnel changes at half time seemed to spark Scotland into action.
With Siobhan McMillan on for her debut and the more experienced Sarah Law and Lana Skeldon coming on to the park the visitors seemed to hit their straps.
Scotland put a kickable penalty in the corner and a well-worked try through the hands put Chloe Rollie in to record their first points of the match.
Another break for the Scots wasn’t far behind and things were looking positive but Wales struck back ruthlessly.
Overpowered at the scrum, Scotland were get caught defending narrowly and Lake finished a simple score.
Looking for fresh legs to bolster energy levels, more subs saw Jodie Rettie and Siobhan Cattigan come on for their international bows.
A turnover forced in midfield saw Hannah Smith attacking at pace and give a late pop to Thomson who floated it out to Rollie creating a fantastic score to draw the teams back to an eight-point margin.
Scotland kept coming and they once more found themselves within striking distance. A thumping tackle that the vocal travelling support thought was high forced a fumble from Thomson and Wales seemed to have escaped the danger.
However, another spill from the home side opened the door and Scotland bludgeoned over, Sarah Law’s conversion bringing them to the brink of a startling comeback.
Wales were giving as good as they got and sustained pressure was only halted by ferocious defence and opportunism, making a half break of a loose pass before turning the ball over once more.
The visitors were able to force one more opportunity when they turned over with seconds remaining but a pilfer from Wales with the clock red was enough for them to hold on for the win.
Full time: Wales 18–17 Scotland.
Scotland Women welcome France in round two of the Women’s Six Nations at Scotstoun on Saturday February 10.