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Scotland boss hails last-gasp hero after targeting Irish indiscipline to end World Cup hopes

Bryan Easson and captain Rachel Malcolm were in flying form in their post-match press conference.

Scotland celebrations after Sarah Law's winner.
Scotland celebrations after Sarah Law's winner.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

WHILE IRELAND’S POST-MATCH press conference on Saturday was understandably a solemn one — a “devastated” Adam Griggs cutting a lonely figure — the Scottish one with head coach Bryan Easson and captain Rachel Malcolm was a much more upbeat, celebratory affair.

Despite the pixels, muffled audio, and connection issues of video calls we have become so accustomed to, their delight shone through, all the way from Parma.

Their dramatic, last-gasp 20-18 win kept their World Cup qualification dream alive, and killed Ireland’s. The heroic Sarah Law made no mistake with the last kick of the game after a stunning fightback, converting Chloe Rollie’s try to send Scotland into seventh heaven.

And Ireland to hell, as the reality of this disastrous situation hit home; failure to qualify for the World Cup, having reached every single one since 1991, hosts in 2017 and semi-finalists as recently as 2014.

But this was Scotland’s moment.

Shortly after the final whistle sounded, Malcolm was asked to sum it all up.

“Wow, that’s a tough question,” she beams. “I’m absolutely delighted. I’m not going to say I can’t believe it because I 100% believed this would be the outcome of today.

“The heart, the passion, the work that has been put in by every single player within the 28 and management over the last few months — we believed we could do that. We knew it could take until the last second and that’s exactly what happened.

“The biggest emotion for me is just pride. I’m so, so proud of the fight of everything the girls put in today on the pitch and I truly believe that we deserved that win.”

“We’ve been in situations like that time and time again,” she added. “Sometimes you do need to weather a storm, but you’ve got to control the controllables, fight, believe and never give up. We never gave up and that’s all I can ask as a captain. Today, we got the result that we fought for.”

ireland-players-dejected-after-the-game Dejection at the final whistle. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Easson wholeheartedly agrees, the Scots coming up trumps after a nail-biting finish.

Ireland were in the driving seat; a bonus-point win sending them directly to next summer’s World Cup in New Zealand, a simple win or draw handing them another chance at a winnable repechage tournament.

While there were surely nerves down the home straight as Scotland chased the game, the head coach says he really thought his side would get another chance.

“It was really interesting, I thought there was a turning point in the game when Ireland at 18-13 had a kickable penalty and they tapped and went. We soaked that up, turned them over and it was interesting just watching the energy that that gave us.

“We played like we knew we would get another opportunity and I think that’s testament to the group. That belief has not just come from this game or the game before, it has come from the work we have put in over the last two years. We knew there was going to be another chance.

“We’ve worked really hard, on and off the field – their fitness, their sheer determination and grit to win that game. We genuinely believed we were going to win that. We just kept going and going, and we deserve everything we got.”

Easson, who succeeded former Ireland Grand Slam winning boss Philip ‘Goose’ Doyle in the role last year, noted that his opponents’ indiscipline was something they targeted.

With two minutes remaining, Eve Higgins saw yellow — Ireland’s second of the game, and fourth of the three-match tournament — for upending Lisa Thomson, but the resultant penalty was kicked dead.

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This “little wobble” didn’t worry Easson, knowing his side would get the ball back into their hands afterwards — and could create something.

“We talked long and hard about Ireland, about keeping the ball against them. They were always going to give away defensive penalties. They have given more defensive penalties away than anybody in this tournament. We knew that if we just kept the ball, that we would get another chance. It was a never-say-die attitude.”

Epitomised by Law, who showed serious bottle to split the posts with that conversion on which everything hung. “She’s the calmest person we’ve got in this squad,” Easson grinned.

“She really is. She’s got such a good rugby brain, she understands the game inside out. For her to just place the ball down there and stroke it through the posts… I’ll be honest, I didn’t really doubt it.

“She works hard on her kicking. Mossy [Chris Paterson] has done a great job with her technique and her processes, so a big thanks to him on that. If there is one player you want to kick a goal for you in the last kick of the game, it’s Sarah Law.”

As a result of that score, Scotland — who had won just once in their previous 15 games to Ireland — now head to the repechage against Samoa, Colombia and an Asian qualifier, where they will be warm favourites to advance.

It’s rumoured for Dubai in November, December time, and while Easson has no concrete details, he insists: “We’ll be ready.”

“We’ve not just won twice, the last two games against Spain and Ireland, we’ve also jumped up to ninth in the world tonight,” he concluded. “We were 11th when we came here [Ireland drop to eighth].

“Over the last seven games, we’ve drawn with France and won another three other matches, so we’re going in the right direction, but we’re certainly not rest on our laurels. We’ll keep improving and improving and improving.”

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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