Spain have leapfrogged Wales in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings after defeating Scotland 29-24 in an entertaining game watched by 3,400 spectators at the Compultense National Stadium in Madrid on Sunday.
Having withstood some sustained Scottish attacks in the early stages, Spain took a sixth-minute lead when number eight Maria Losada crossed for the game’s opening try.
Spain had another try disallowed for a forward pass in the build-up but then Scotland took charge, the forward pack doing the hard yards before fly-half Helen Nelson dotted down between the posts. Nelson converted her own try to put Scotland 7-5 up.
Scotland continued to dominate possession and after defending for long periods, the pressure eventually told on Spain who conceded a second try to centre Hannah Smith. Spain reacted well to the setback, though, and just before half-time a well-worked lineout set up the opportunity to drive over the line, closing the gap just before the break.
With their lead cut to two points, Scotland remained on the front foot at the start of the second half and they were rewarded for their dominance with a second try of the match for Smith.
The score seemed to spur on the hosts, who responded in emphatic style, tight-head prop Laura Delgado crossing and fly-half Patricia Garcia adding the extras to make the game all-square at 17-17.
On 66 minutes, Spain went ahead for the second time in the match thanks to a tap-and-go penalty move from the quick-thinking Garcia, the resulting conversion taking Las Leonas into a 24-17 lead. Two minutes later Garcia was at it again, finishing off a free-flowing move down the flank, but this time the conversion was missed.
The introduction of fresh legs for Scotland, which included a debut for Sophie Anderson, saw the visitors raise the tempo once again.
Persistent pressure in Spanish territory resulted in a penalty to Scotland, giving them space and an opportunity to set up a grandstand finish. From the set piece the Scottish backs worked it wide looking for a gap, which Chloe Rollie found as she dived over for her side’s fourth try.
With less than a minute left on the clock, Scotland pushed hard to retain possession from the restart, but Spain held on to win a compelling and typically tight encounter. For the third match in a row, the margin between these sides was just five points.
With 0.41 of a point gained, Spain improve their rating to 73.18 points and move up to eighth, two-hundredths more than Wales who drop to ninth. Scotland stay in 11th place, with the cushion between themselves and South Africa down to one-and-a-half points.