If following last weekend, the flower of Scotland is drooping somewhat, then it is hardly surprising. Following the hammering handed out to Scotland's Team in the Calcutta Cup, England's Women's Team added to the embarrassment on the Sunday following by overcoming the Scottish Women's side thirty nine points to nil.
The England side came into this game following a good win against Spain at Worcester but with Scotland having beaten Wales by a greater margin than had England, the stage was set for a close and competitive encounter. Also, with the skirl of the pipes echoing around the Richmond Athletic Ground and a passionate rendition of "Flower of Scotland", there was more than a hint of revenge in the air. In the end, the game played under the shadow of cancellation as a result of the spread of foot and mouth disease was an object lesson to those who attempt to see a division in the country between town and country dwellers. Rugby is no longer the class-based sport that it once might have been and the women's game as well as the professional nature of the men's game now has had much to do with that. Indeed the encounter was of sufficient profile to attract the attendance of the Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, who was introduced to the two sides before the game as well as presenting the Cup at the end of the match. Throughout she watched the game with pleasure and there is no doubt that women's rugby has an active ambassador in the Minister.
In the event the match, after the first fifteen minutes or so, didn't live up to the close encounter that had promised. England, perhaps emulating the success of the men's game the previous day, soon demonstrated that Scottish fervour could be no contest when it came to the ball handling skills, linking ability, pace and sense of adventure of the England side and although Scotland never gave in and tackled resolutely, in the end that was their sum contribution, as England, ably led by their Captain, Paula George of Wasps and with the darting skills of their scrumhalf, Jo Yapp of Worcester much in evidence, was just too much for the Scottish team and the England Women ran out convincing winners by thirty nine points to nil.
Scorers for England were: Sue Day (Wasps), Gill Burns (Waterloo), Assunta de Biase (Saracens), Jo Yapp (Worcester), Emily Feltham (Richmond). There was much to admire in the play of England's Women with Teresa Andrews prominent amongst the forwards and Paula George a constant threat to the opposition amongst the backs but, Matt Dawson look out, because Jo Yapp, the England scrumhalf, was "Player of the Match" for me.
The day itself was an excellent demonstration of the Women's game and was both well organised and well attended and the professional game would do well to match the humour and enthusiasm of the PA Announcer. For those who lament the end of the men's amateur game, there is much to admire in the Women's game embracing as it does the humour and social side of pre-professional rugby, yet learning so much from the professional sport in terms of skill and commitment.