Number two in OTOTM’s countdown of the most memorable moments provided by Scottish rugby in 2021.
(Part 1, counting down numbers 10 to 4, is here. Part 2, featuring Duhan Van Der Merwe crashing over against France, is here.)
2. Lisa Thomson’s catch and pass
With more than a decade having passed since Scotland Women last appeared in a World Cup, the pressure was on to deliver in the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifiers in September of this year.
All four teams in the tournament entered the final round of matches with one win and one loss. – and each side had picked up a single bonus point each as well. Points difference though left Scotland needing a win against Ireland in order to assure themselves of a top two finish in order to keep their World Cup dream alive.
The try that would ultimately see the Scots defeat Ireland – for just the second time in the last 15 years – was the ultimate team score. All 15 players were involved with all bar two of them touching the ball. For 2 minutes and 12 seconds, Scotland Women were inevitable.
The workrate, particularly for the players with nearly 80 minutes of hard graft in their legs, was relentless. Even with tired minds, the right decisions were being made. They manipulated the Irish defence this way then that, finding the space for the jet heeled Chloe Rollie to first gain nearly 20 minutes of territory and then a few phases later race in for the vital try.
This was a score built like a tall tower. Remove one of the actions and the whole thing would collapse. If someone had missed their assignment at the breakdown? Game over. If a pass had gone astray or been dropped? Game over. There was no stopping Scotland though – the execution under pressure was exemplary.
The whole passage of play is well worth watching (repeatedly) but here are a few of OTOTM’s particularly highlights before the final, punch the air moment:
- Phase 6: Hannah Smith’s remarkable leg drive as she joins the breakdown which pushes Scotland over the gain line.
- Phase 7: Despite being hit just after the halfway line Jade Konkel still manages to make 7 metres post contact, with Irish defenders hanging off her.
- Phase 11: the pick up down at her knees by Chloe Rollie – who then scampers nearly up to the 22, slipping multiple tackles.
- Phase 12: Mollie Wright following up Rollie’s carry with a line break and offload to Lisa Cockburn.
That 1-2 punch from the full back and the front rower on phases 11 and 12 splintered the Irish defence. From that point on they couldn’t reorganise. With a combination of Jade Konkel and Emma Wassell taking play up to 10 metres from the Irish it just needed composure from the Scots to find the space that would inevitably be there.
Even in the heat of battle with their World Cup chances on a knife-edge the dark blues were able to execute their skills. The forwards carried and cleaned. The backs made good decisions and handled deftly. With just over 30 seconds left to play, the moment that got Scottish fans everywhere out of their seats arrived.
With Ireland running out of defenders they had one last chance to close down Lisa Thomson and shut down the play. The centre was having none of it. As soon as Thomson’s superbly slick take and give was on its way there was no one left to stop Chloe Rollie from finishing an extraordinary effort and giving Scotland one last chance to stay in the mix for RWC qualification.
After that 15 player team effort, it still needed Sarah Law to step up and provide the coup de grâce. The stand off was calmness personified as she slotted home the conversion. Cue bedlam among the Scottish players, coaches and staff. An undoubted high point of 2021 and one that provides the chance for an even better 2022 if the dark blues can seal their place in New Zealand by coming through the Final Qualification Tournament in February.