Scotland Women’s Rugby World Cup hopes dented by heavy defeat by Italy in Parma

Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for the Rugby World Cup suffered a damaging blow with a heavy defeat by Italy in Parma.

Scotland stand-off Helen Nelson kicked two penalties but Italy proved far too strong.

The hosts won 38-13 in the opening match of the four-team European qualification tournament, scoring six tries in the process. The Scots scored one in reply, through Rhona Lloyd but it was too little, too late.

Bryan Easson’s side still have to face Spain and Ireland in the round-robin format but only the group winners will qualify automatically for the tournament in New Zealand next year. The runners-up will go into a repechage final qualifying tournament.

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“We made too many unforced errors which gave them the platform to play off,” said Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm. “I think we showed in parts what we can do, particularly in the second half when we showed dominance at the set-piece and the maul but there are things we’ll definitely need to look at going into the Spain game. We need to regroup and come back stronger.”

On a hot day in northern Italy where the temperature was 27 degrees, the Scots struggled from the start.

It took the hosts only three minutes to notch the first try, flanker Giada Franco burrowing her way over after a lineout drive, and Michela Sillari’s conversion meant the Scots were 7-0 down before they’d even caught their breath.

They responded impressively, winning a penalty and kicking to the corner to set up a lineout drive of their own. It yielded another penalty and Helen Nelson took the points to reduce the lead to 7-3.

But the game slipped away from Scotland when they conceded two tries in two minutes midway through the first half.

The first came when Italy played it through their backline to winger Maria Magatti who just managed to stay in play as she got the ball down in the corner despite a last-ditch effort to stop her by Lloyd after a couple of missed tackles earlier in the move.

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An unforced error gifted Italy their third try. For the second time in as many minutes Scotland overthrew from the lineout and home hooker Melissa Bettoni was able to collect. It was taken on by Ilaria Arrighetti and Lucia Gai who fed scrum-half Sara Barattin who ran in the score. Sillari converted.

Chloe Rollie then had to twice save Scotland as Easson’s side found themselves in danger of being swamped. Nelson gave Scotland a glimmer of hope when she knocked over another penalty but the respite was temporary and Italy claimed a fourth try just before half-time.

Veronia Madia, the home stand-off, played in Arrighetti who ran a perfect line to dart between Louise McMillan and Emma Wassell. Sillari’s conversion made it 26-6 at the break.

Scotland started the second half better but Italy were soon out of sight.

Barattin’s lovely reverse pass allowed Sillari to run in Italy’s fifth try and the sixth followed shortly after when fly-half Madia chipped through for winger Manuela Furlan to score.

With Italy sub Francesca Sgorbini in the sin-bin, Scotland began to find a bit more space and with ten minutes remaining, they scored a consolation try. Lisa Thomson’s looped pass to Lloyd eliminated a couple of Italian defenders and although the winger had to stop to gather she was able to take on the ball and force her way over. Replacement stand-off Sarah Law converted impressively from the corner.

Scotland prop Christine Belisle was yellow-carded late on for a high tackle.

Scorers: Italy: Tries: Franco, Magatti, Barattin, Arrighetti, Sillari, Furlan. Cons: Sillari 4. Scotland: Try: Lloyd. Con: Law. Pens: Nelson 2.

Scotland: Chloe Rollie; Rhona Lloyd, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney; Helen Nelson (Sarah Law 58), Jenny Maxwell (Mairi McDonald 58); Leah Bartlett (Lisa Cockburn 58), Lana Skeldon, Christine Belisle, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm, Louise McMillan (Rachel McLachlan 58), Jade Konkel. Subs: Molly Wright, Katie Dougan, Evie Gallagher, Liz Musgrove.

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