Scotland join Sweden in Women's World Cup

(IRB.COM) Saturday 23 May 2009

 Scotland join Sweden in Women's World Cup
Scotland will compete at the Women's Rugby World Cup

Lucy Millard claimed a second half hat-trick as Scotland ran out 38-18 winners over the Netherlands at the European Trophy in Sweden to top Pool A and secure the qualification spot for Women's Rugby World Cup 2010.

Both sides had comfortably overcome Belgium and Russia in their two previous matches, playing some impressive and free flowing attacking rugby along the way in the eight-team tournament, but only the winner would join Sweden on the plane for England 2010.

Sarah Gill and Loranine Laros traded penalties in the first quarter of the match in Enkoping, before two tries in a four-minute spell from hooker Sarah-Louise Walker and number 8 Susie Brown edged Scotland into a 17-3 lead after 30 minutes.

The two sides would be separated by just six points, though, at half-time after Laros kicked another penalty for the Netherlands and then their star wing Kelly van Harskamp scored her 11th try of the tournament.

It remained at 17-11 until Millard touched down in the 64th minute and went on to put the match beyond doubt by completing her hat-trick for the Six Nations participants 11 minutes later. There was still time for Dutch centre Dorien Eppink to score a consolation try.

Hard work starts now

"The performance was fantastic," said Scotland head coach Jamie Dempsey. "We played against a very fit, big athletic Dutch side and, particularly in the second half, we managed to control the game in terms of territory and possession while gaining parity in the physical exchanges.

"This win is massive, we want to be a tier one nation in the Women's Game. This is the first time there has ever been a qualification process for the World Cup and for us to get there is a massive achievement.

"But we've got to go there and perform. We've got to go there and surpass what we've done in previous World Cups. The squad's got the capability to do that but the hard work starts now.

"In terms of Women's Rugby nationwide hopefully everyone can get behind us and support us because these girls put in an awful lot of effort and are some of the best individuals you are likely to see in a sports team."

First tries for losing trio

Going into the other Pool A match neither Russia nor Belgium had scored a point in their two previous matches, but the prize of the first win went to the Russians with a try in each half for wing Natalia Alexeeva helping her side to a 29-11 victory in Enkoping.

Russia had taken the lead in the 10th minute with fly half Elena Smirnova's opening try with Claire Paris' penalty for Belgium sandwiched between this and Alexeeva's score. Paris kicked another penalty before Elena Gamova's late try made it 19-6 in Russia's favour at half time.

Alexeeva and prop Olga Sychugova crossed for tries in the second half, either side of Belgium's only try of the tournament from number 8 and captain Corinne Sailliez. Both sides will learn plenty from their experiences in Sweden, particularly the young Belgians.

The qualification place from Pool B had already been claimed by Sweden after their upsets of Six Nations side Italy and Women's RWC 2006 participant Spain on the first two match days, but the hosts made it a clean sweep with a 36-8 victory over Germany in Stockholm.

Wing Charlotta Westin-Vines gave the home crowd more reason to cheer with the opening try after eight minutes, before flanker Jessica Berntsson touched down to stretch Sweden's advantage to 14-0 at the half hour mark.

Winning climax for Spain

Germany then scored their first try of the tournament through wing Marina Apfel, but it was Sweden who went in leading 19-5 at half time following Westin-Vines' second. Apfel reduced the deficit a little with an early penalty, but two tries from Westin-Vines and another from second row Madelene Lahti wrapped up the victory.

Italy and Spain had both come to the European Trophy with their sights set on securing their passage to the Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 and this match touted as the decider in that race. As it turned out, this match was merely a battle for second spot behind Sweden.

It was Spain who made the better start with tries from scrum half Isabel Rodriguez and full back Marta Pocurull in the opening half ensuring that coach Ines Etxegibel's side went in leading 12-0 at half time, even if they had failed to score while Italy had Sara Barattin in the sin-bin.

A second half yielded only one further score with wing Silvia Pizzati crossing for a try which Veronica Schiavon converted just before the hour mark, with Italy unable to find a second try to end the tournament on a winning note with Spain running out 12-7 winners.