By Kaylan Geekie at Scotstoun | UWS Sport
Date: Friday, 18 November Venue: Scotstoun Stadium Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup Qualifying 1st Leg
Final Score: Scotland 5 (5) Spain 10 (10)
Scotland: Try: McCormack
Spain: Try: Riel Pen: García Con: García
Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup hang by a thread after going down 5-10 to Spain on an icy evening at Scotstoun.
A late charge by the Scots was not enough as the Spanish clung on to a deserved win on a night in Glasgow where the mercury dipped to zero.
Deborah McCormack’s 29th minute try was cancelled out by Vanesa Riel’s five-pointer three minutes before the break as Las Leonas took a 10-5 lead at the break.
The difference could be found in the fortunes of the two teams’ kickers. Patricia García kicked a penalty and a conversion while Lana Skeldon and Helen Nelson missed from the kicking tee.
Scots’ coach Shade Munro will rue his team’s many missed opportunities to win the game and go to Madrid next Saturday, needing not only a win, but to overturn a five-point deficit in the second leg, if they are to qualify for the 2017 World Cup in Ireland.
The home team started brightly and spent most of the opening half hour camped inside their opponents half but could not convert pressure into points as wave after wave of attacks were repelled by Spain.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring after their first foray into enemy territory. A penalty from García from ten metres in front of the posts gave Spain a 3-0 lead after Scotland were pinged for offsides.
Spain were dominant at the breakdown, led by boiler-room duo of María Ribero and Elena Redondo, who were outstanding. While their backs attacked using the width of the park but poor handling and stout Scottish defence kept them out.
Eventually, after nearly half an hour of sustained pressure the red wall was breached. Scotland carried the ball several phases and from a ruck. Scrumhalf Sarah Law switched play with captain
Lisa Marin, who drew two defenders before sending McCormack over in the corner to the loud cheers of the 2, 565 home fans.
Marin had been moved to the midfield to accommodate flyhalf Helen Nelson, who was starting for the first time. This switch worked well as the Murrayfield Wanderers team-mates combined well throughout the game.
Skeldon missed the touch-line conversion but Scotland led 5-3. Spain, however, hit back immediately with a well-worked try of their own.
After several phases inside the Scots’ 22 they were rewarded when centre Rial scored to regain the lead for her side.
Spain had worked the ball into the far right corner of Scotland’s 22 then switched play, moving the ball through the backs, before Rial straightened and carrying two Scotland tacklers, crossed the white-wash.
García’s conversion was good, just clearing the crossbar as the teams went into the break with the score at 10-5 to the visitors.
Spain’s late score had a rousing effect and they shifted up a gear as they started the second half with high intensity and energy.
Scotland’s tacklers were struggling with the physicality of the visitors; each ball carrier took a Scot with them over the gain-line as they pounded into defenders.
Spain thought they had scored but TMO Neil Paterson disagreed after reviewing the play. From the resulting scrum they crossed the line again but were held-up. Scotland were reeling under the pressure.
Mistakes were creeping in and Scotland twice missed touch from their 22, allowing Las Leonas to run the ball back at their opponents, keeping them pinned in their half.
Spain then botched a simple walk-over try with a careless forward pass when it seemed easier to score. Another jinking run from fullback Barbara Plá was halted near the goal-line and they again came away with nothing.
Coach Jose Antonio Barrio must have been pulling his hair out as his team continued to let themselves down with poor handling and sloppy play.
Some respite soon came when Spain were penalised for not releasing at the breakdown. Flanker Jemma Forsyth’s smart work at he ruck released the pressure and Scotland kicked to touch.
This allowed Munro’s team to regroup and launch an assault of their own. The resulting line-out led to an impressive driving maul that took Scotland deep into Spanish territory.
From there they won a scrum after Lisa Thompson’s mini-break was halted after a short pass from her skipper.
Spain’s defence, however, was immense, driving each attacker back in the tackle before eventually clearing their lines.
Scotland could not turn pressure into points, whereas Spain, had come away with points on two of the first three occasions that they entered the Scots’ 22.
As the half went on, it was Scotland’s turn to pile the pressure on. A missed penalty-touch finder worked in the home team’s favour as the launched another attack from fullback Chloe Rollie who had an outstanding game with ball in hand.
With time ticking down, Scotland won a line-out against the throw and were soon on the attack. Somehow Spain held on.
Another driving maul and another sustained set of attacks came to naught. Another five metre line-out was stopped after Eilidh Sinclair was tackled into touch.
Scotland’s forwards tried in vain to power their way over but Spain regathered and launched the ball into the crowd to hold on for the win.
Scotland: 15 Chloe Rollie, 14 Megan Gaffney, 13 Lisa Thomson, 12 Lisa Martin, 11 Rhona Lloyd, 10 Helen Nelson, 9 Sarah Law; 1 Heather Lockhart, 2 Lana Skeldon, 3 Tracey Balmer, 4 Emma Wassell, 5 Deborah McCormack, 6 Jemma Forsyth, 7 Louise McMillan, 8 Karen Dunbar.
Replacements: 16 Lucy Park, 17 Lindsey Smith, 18 Katie Dougan, 19 Sarah Bonar, 20 Rachel Malcolm, 21 Lyndsay O’Donnell, 22 Jenny Maxwell, 23 Eilidh Sinclair.
Spain: 15 Barbara Plà, 14 Mario Casado, 13 Vanesa Rial, 12 Marina Bravo, 11 Iera Etxeberria, 10 Patricia Garcia, 9 Anne Fernández, 1 Isabel Rico, 2 Aroa González, 3 Laura Delgado, 4 María Ribera, 5 Elena Redondo, 6 Diana Gassó, 7 Paula Medín, 8 Ángela del Pan.
Replacements: 16 Saio Jaurena, 17 Isabel Macías, 18 Jeanina Vinueza, 19 Monica Castelo, 20 María Losada, 21 Irene Schiavón, 22 Amaia Erbina, 23 Anna Ramon.
Referee: Claire Hodnett
Assistant Referees: Alex Pratt and Ian Kenny
TMO: Neil Paterson