LIONESSES can be savage creatures – in women’s football as well as the wild.

In a pride it is the females which do most of the hunting (males often forget to feed the kids) and for much of the first half in Nice yesterday that seemed like an entirely appropriate metaphor as Shelley Kerr’s side found themselves hunted down and preyed upon on their World Cup debut by the lionesses of England’s women’s football team.

With Lee Alexander required to be an inspired last line of defence on numerous occasions and two England ‘goals’ ruled out for offside, perhaps just after half-time some feared the Scots were in for another mauling like the one they suffered against these same opponents in their Euro 2017 opener two years ago in Utrecht.

Instead, it was time for the underdogs to begin baring their teeth, snarling into tackles and putting the fear of God into their much-vaunted opponents.

Nutmegged by her in a stretch of ‘ole football’ by the English in the first half, Nikita Parris - a star with a French-sounding name who will soon be strutting her stuff at women’s Champions League winners Lyon - soon found herself unceremoniously stuck on her backside by Nicola Docherty.

Next Erin Cuthbert, not always able to influence the match as she might have liked in the first 45 minutes despite being deployed directly through the middle by Kerr, used that low centre of gravity to out-strength England centre half Mille Bright for a loose ball. The giant defender crashed to earth and was helped uncomfortably away from the fray soon afterwards.

There was an indomitability about Scotland during that period and no little skill too: Cuthbert, Kim Little and Caroline Weir were influencing things more and more as the match grew on. So much for England’s supposed edge in fitness and conditioning.

Soon, like Kevin Keegan’s side in those Euro 2000 play-offs in the men’s game back in 1999, the English were finding that 2-0 wasn’t such a comfortable lead after all.

Already a proud day for supporters of the sport in this county as the occasion of our first ever women’s World Cup appearance – and our first in any gender since an ignominious 3-0 defeat to Morocco in St Etienne some 21 years ago – yesterday will now also go down forever as the occasion of our women’s first-ever World Cup goal.

It was well deserved and had heart and desire stamped all over it. Last ten minutes of the match or not, Lisa Evans piled onwards. Claire Emslie, a 25-year-old who is leaving Manchester City to play out at Orlando Pride, stuck it high into the net with the aid of a deflection. Scotland never ran out of belief or ideas. They just ran out of time.

There will be an odd mixture of emotions in the camp this morning. Pride, of course, will be one of them - about just how far these two age-old enemies have come since they provided the opposition for each other’s first-ever international match, a 3-2 England win in November 1972 at Ravenscraig Stadium, Greenock, even if the Stade de Nice was only half full yesterday. Alexander can take pride in a performance which surely dispelled once and for all the complaints which some luddites still have about the standard of goalkeeping in the women’s game.

Hope, too. Considering six goals separated the sides two years ago, this result shows Scotland have done more than keep pace with advances in the game south of the border.

With Japan and then Argentina to come, they have at least managed to limit their losses in a group where goal difference could yet prove crucial as they hope to become the first Scottish team of any gender to make it to the knockout stages.

There will be anger and frustration in some quarters, perhaps, at the imperfections of Fifa’s procedures and how the intervention of a video assistant replay (VAR), perhaps influenced by chants of ‘VAR, VAR’ from the English fans, led to the penalty which Parris steered in for the opener.

Of course Docherty had no intention of deliberately using her hand to block Fran Kirby’s cross. But Fifa’s recent rule changes render such objections irrelevant. She can maybe talk things over with Moussa Sissoko, who was similarly harshly dealt with in the men’s Champions League final.

There will be some thinking for Kerr to do, too, about how Scotland found themselves in such a deep hole after that first half that - try as they might - they couldn’t climb out of it. It would be facetious to say that having waited so long for their World Cup debut, they didn’t turn up for another 45 minutes but at times in that first half England’s high pressing game had them hemmed in and bogged down.

Scotland probably lost the match during that period in the first half. But they won new admirers in the second. And in this sport right now that is half the battle. Allez Les (Dark) Bleus.