SCOTLAND just failed to get the better of a powerful United States side yesterday, but the result of this World Cup warm-up match is of little significance. For all that a victory against opponents who are ranked fifth in the world would have been useful, the important thing in this game was that, after a tough few weeks off the field, the squad should come out and show that their morale is high. They did that, staying in the fight right until the end of the match.

In those weeks, rugby activities have been overshadowed for the players by the news that the family of their late team-mate Siobhan Cattigan are taking legal action against Scottish Rugby, alleging that lack of proper treatment contributed to her death late last year. In such circumstances it would have been understandable if they had appeared distracted or simply demotivated, but instead, they applied themselves with real conviction.

Their play was not quite good enough to get the better of a USA side who were on top in the scrum for much of the time, whose offloading was inventive, and who on occasion were able to punch holes in the home defence with alarming ease. Even so, Scotland stuck to their task well, and were in the contest right up to the final whistle, pressing hard in stoppage time for the score that would have given them victory in this first of two World Cup warm-up games.

Head coach Bryan Easson, for one, was certainly encouraged by the attitude of his team, whose current world ranking is 10. “Considering that is the first game in four months after a tough pre-season building up to the World Cup, I thought the performance was excellent,”

he said.

“We worked really hard as a group to put the noise away and concentrate on our goal, which is going to that World Cup. We knew this was going to be a difficult test and we have worked hard on our set piece, our attack and defence shape and I am confident we are going in the right direction.

“It was not about peaking now. I am pleased how we are progressing. We are rusty, but we can go into the Spain week and fix those.

“There were some real positives and some work-ons as well. To be in the game up until the last play against a top five side in the world is testament to the group. The one thing that pleased me was 23 players have had good game time going into our big goal.”

Two of the 23, Elliann Clark and Elis Martin, made their debuts off the bench after the break. Another substitute, Rachel McLachlan, had to go off injured with an elbow injury not long after coming on; she is now awaiting the results of a scan.

The lead changed four times in a keenly contested first half, which ended with Scotland just in front at 17-16. Lana Skeldon and Rhona Lloyd both touched down, with Helen Nelson adding two conversions and a penalty.

The USA’s points before the break came from tries by Hope Rogers and Kate Zackary, while Alev [correct with a v] Kelter and Gabby Cantorna added penalties. In a far more attritional and less dynamic second half, Rogers scored her second try of the game to secure a narrow but deserved win for her side.

In truth, the visitors might well have added a couple of more scores after the break – lock Hallie Taufoou had a touchdown chalked off by the TMO for a knock-on, and Chloe Rollie had a try-saving tackle on winger Lotte Clapp minutes from time. Nonetheless, there was still a lot for them to be encouraged by in their first outing of the season - although they will expect an all-round improvement in their play when they meet Spain in their second and last World Cup warm-up, also at the DAM Health, a fortnight today.