Scotland missed out on a place at the Rugby World Cup as Ireland mounted a late fightback to secure a 15-12 win in Belfast.  

A penalty from Dannah O’Brien was the difference between the two sides during a tense encounter that Scotland had led at the break but were never able to control.  

The visitors took the lead when Elis Martin drove over from a dominant maul. In difficult weather conditions, Helen Nelson couldn’t add the extras, but it was just the start the visitors would have wanted.  

There followed a lengthy delay following an injury to scrum-half Caity Mattinson, who left the field on a stretcher.  

Ireland dominated the first half thereafter, and while stern Scottish defence saw the visitors take a 5-0 lead into the interval, it was cancelled out early in the second period as Ireland wing Katie Corrigan raced over.   

Scotland re-took the lead with their first sustained period of attack in the second half, Lisa Thomson going over for her ninth Test try. But Ireland hit back, replacement hooker Cliodhna Moloney crashing over and Dannah O’Brien levelling the scores at 12-12 with the conversion.  

The young fly-half then stepped up to slot the decisive penalty as Ireland booked their spot at next year's World Cup, leaving the visitors to qualify through WXV later this year. 

Here are five things we learned from Kingspan Stadium. 

Take your chances 

Last week Rachel Malcolm defended her decision not to take three points when they were on offer in favour of kicking to the corner. With five minutes to go today, and trailing by three points, she again turned down the kick at goal and Scotland camped themselves in the home 22 in search of the winning score.  

It backfired as Ireland got a hand to a last-gasp lineout to earn victory. In matches like these, Scotland must take the points when they are on offer.  

Good and bad at the set-piece 

It’s supposed to be easier to win your own lineout ball than it is steal that of the opposition, but this Scotland side is making a habit of disproving that theory. Louise McMillan has won more opposition lineout ball than anyone else in the championship and she was at it again in Belfast. The pick of her two steals came right on half-time.  

But as has been the case throughout the Six Nations, Scotland struggled to win their own lineout. Their set-piece stutters meant Bryan Easson’s side were unable to impose themselves on the game and spent large parts of the game – as was the case in Parma a week ago – on the back foot.  

Outstanding Lisa Thomson 

The hard-running inside centre might not have the highlight reel of Emma Orr or Fran McGhie, but there are few more important cogs in this Scottish back division. On a miserable afternoon at the Kingspan, her direct carrying was important when Scotland did get their hands on the ball, while Thomson’s physicality also helped the defensive effort.  

Scotland Rugby News: Lisa Thomson was terrific for ScotlandLisa Thomson was terrific for Scotland (Image: PA)

She also made a vital defensive intervention to hold Ireland out on the half-hour before cutting a delightful line to score her try.  

Fine margins at the breakdown battle 

When Scotland were under the cosh in the second half, they turned momentum in their favour – at least momentarily - with a couple of vital breakdown penalties. Replacement tighthead prop Elliann Clarke won the first, then moments later fellow sub Mairi McDonald won an excellent jackal to turn possession over. From the possession that followed, Emma Orr hacked down field and Scotland were able to build some pressure. 

After Scotland went behind late on, there was a terrific steal from Eva Donaldson to win the ball back and give the visitors a shot at salvaging a result.  

World Cup qualification 

The full range of emotions were on display at full-time as Ireland celebrated earning their place in WXV 1, and at next year’s World Cup, while Scotland were left to rue another below-par performance as they missed out. Bryan Easson’s side will still have a chance to make it to the global stage, but they’ll have to repeat their WXV performance later this year to book their place.  

Ireland: Meabh Deely, Katie Corrigan, Eve Higgins, Enya Breen, Beibhinn Parsons, Dannah O’Brien, Aoibheann Reilly; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones (Moloney 45) Christy Haney (O’Dowd 40), Dorothy Wall, Sam Monaghan (co-captain), Aoife Wafer, Edel McMahon (co-captain), Brittany Hogan  

Tries: Corrigan (42), Moloney (58) 

Conversion: O’Brien (59) 

Penalty: O’Brien (74) 

Yellow card: Parsons (80) 

Scotland: Meryl Smith, Coreen Grant, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Francesca McGhie, Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson (McDonald 11); Leah Bartlett (Cockburn 63), Elis Martin (Wright 63), Christine Belisle (Clarke 47), Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan (Donaldson 58), Rachel Malcolm (captain), Alex Stewart (McLachlan 58), Evie Gallagher 

Tries: Martin (8), Thomson (50) 

Conversion: Nelson (51) 

Referee: Natarsha Ganley (New Zealand) 

Player of the Match: Brittany Hogan