RACHEL MALCOLM believes that Scotland continue to make modest progress in their TikTok Six Nations campaign despite losing a fourth consecutive match at the weekend.

Malcolm’s team were beaten 20-13 by Italy on Saturday night, and are bottom of the table going into the final weekend of the Championship with just two losing bonus points to show for their efforts so far. Their last game is in Belfast this Saturday against Ireland, who were outclassed 69-0 by England yesterday but beat Italy earlier in the tournament. 

After playing well only in patches in their opening three matches, Scotland’s aim against the Italians was to produce a more consistent display, and the captain thought they had done that. “We probably had a slightly longer good performance, if that makes sense,” she said. “The challenge we had was to put in an 80-minute performance, and that’s what we have lacked this Six Nations. We’ve put in some good performances and we’ve built each week and had things we’ve wanted to work on and improve, and we have ticked a few of those boxes. But we said Italy was about finding a way to win, because that’s what we’ve lacked, and we’re just disappointed.

“I think we were the better team for large parts of that game. Italy were extremely physical and they brought it to us, so I commend them for that, especially when the conditions turned.”

The Italians certainly coped better with the conditions in the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, which was strange given that driving rain is a type of weather more associated with Paisley than Parma. And they were also more composed, remaining patient despite a 10-3 half-time deficit, while Scotland became increasingly frustrated as the momentum turned in the home team’s favour.

“Ultimately what let us down was our discipline,” Malcolm accepted after a match in which her side’s points came from an Emma Wassell try and two penalties and a conversion by Helen Nelson. “It’s something we pride ourselves on as a team and it has been really good in this championship, but [against Italy] it wasn’t good enough - particularly in key moments when we were putting pressure on them and took that pressure off through our poor discipline.

“It’s things we can fix, which is promising. But it’s also another week of having to fix things, which is frustrating.”

If Scotland did not engineer many clear openings, at least they enjoyed a lot of possession, thanks in part to significant contributions in the set piece from the likes of lock forward Sarah Bonar. If they can establish similar platforms against Ireland they will have a chance of ending their campaign on a high note, although Malcolm did admit that they have yet to pinpoint why they are failing to score from more of the chances they manage to make for themselves. 

“We have to work out why we’re not converting them,” the back-row forward continued. “We’ll reflect long and hard as individuals and as a team to find out why we’re not finishing things off. Hopefully against Ireland we can come out and take those opportunities and finish on a high.

“Every time we pull on a Scotland shirt we are going to win and we are going to put in the best performance we can for Scotland. We need to look at the Italy game and what went wrong and see how we can fix things and come back better. We’ve got to look at ourselves as individuals and as a team so we can come back and perform for Scotland against Ireland.”

Scotland learned last week that they would be without key forward Jade Konkel for their last two games as the consequence of a rib injury, and they will now almost certainly be missing Jenny Maxwell too for the trip to Belfast. The scrum-half came off the bench in the second half to replace Caity Mattinson, but was injured barely a minute afterwards, appearing to twist her leg before falling. Malcolm said after the match that Maxwell had been taken to hospital, but there has been no further update from the Scotland camp.