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Scotland 59 Colombia 3: Bryan Easson’s side claim final Rugby World Cup spot with huge win

WHO says Scottish teams cannot cope with being tagged favourites? Bryan Easson’s side were backed to win this World Cup final qualifier with something to spare, and they did exactly that in some style.

Given the prize on offer – a place in the Rugby World Cup itself later this year – was one that had eluded them since 2010, it would have been understandable if some nerves had been on display. But two early penalties from stand-off Sarah Law dispelled any uncertainties the team may have had, and nine tries and four conversions later they were able to start celebrating one of the most significant achievements in the history of Scottish women’s rugby.

A penalty by winger Maria Arzuaga at least ensured Colombia got on the scoresheet, but they never threatened their opponents’ try line. For them, the victory lay in getting this far after only a handful of Tests in their history – incredibly, this was their first defeat in a cap international – and their semi-final win over Kazakhstan six days earlier was a substantial feat in its own right.

The Scotland squad, who expect to be back home in time to attend the men’s game against France at BT Murrayfield this afternoon, now have the Six Nations to attend to before they start preparing for October’s World Cup, where they will be in Pool A alongside hosts New Zealand, Australia and Wales. “It’s the best feeling I have felt in my entire life,” captain Rachel Malcolm said after the match. “As a wee girl I dreamt of playing with a thistle on my shirt as did everyone in the squad, and to go out there and play with some of my best mates and perform for Scotland and get us to a World Cup – well, I really am struggling to put into words just how much it means to us all.”

The squad have been improving in fits and starts for four or five seasons now, but have made more sustained progress since Bryan Easson took charge. The head coach insisted there was a lot more to come from his team. “It’s been such a long journey and we put so much effort into this game,” he said. “Now that we’re there it’s about what we do next and how we start planning. We’ve got the Six Nations coming up in a few weeks then we’ve got a World Cup to plan for.

The Scots’ ability to stretch the Toucans’ defence was evident in the scores for wingers Megan Gaffney and Rhona Lloyd, while the power of their pack was forcefully demonstrated by the scores from Jade Konkel and Lana Skeldon. Substitutes Evie Wills and Molly Wright touched down late in the game as Colombia tired, and there were debuts for Caity Mattinson, a former England scrum-half, and Eva Donaldson.

In retrospect, all the hard work by the squad was done in last year’s European qualifying tournament which got them to this stage, and in which they recovered from an initial defeat by Italy to beat Spain and Ireland and go through to this shootout as runners-up. One of the players who took part in that competition, Siobhan Cattigan, tragically died aged just 26 late last year, and before yesterday’s game her former team-mates laid a jersey by the side of the pitch in memory of her.

“We wanted to pay our respects to Siobhan,” Malcolm added. “And we wanted her out there to hopefully finish the journey that she started with us. It was a really emotional moment for us as a team, but something really passionate that we wanted to do for the team and for Siobhan and for her family.”

Scorers: Scotland: Tries Thomson (10), Gaffney (18, 44), Lloyd (29), Law (38), Konkel (54), Skeldon (59), Wills (64), Wright (71) Pens Law (2, 6) Cons Law 3, Nelson

Colombia: Pen Arzuaga (35).

Yellow card: Colombia Romero (53)

Scotland C Rollie; R Lloyd, L Thomson, H Nelson, M Gaffney (S Campbell 56); S Law (E Wills 61), J Maxwell (C Mattinson 56); L Bartlett (L Cockburn 56), L Skeldon (M Wright 61), C Belisle (K Dougan 72), E Wassell, L McMillan (E Donaldson 72), R Malcolm (capt, E Gallagher 61), R McLachlan, J Konkel. 

Colombia L Mejia; J Soto (L Garcia 74), L Soto (capt), I Romero, M Arzuaga; C Lopera (V Tapias 62), A Ramirez (Y Quintero 67); A Andrioly (S Olave 37), N Barajas (G Avendano 74), A Betancur (G Gomez 73), V Alvarez, A Vargas, A Manyoma, V Munoz, T Hernandez (C Arango 65).

Referee  A McLachlan (Australia).

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