Match Report: Women’s Premiership Final – Watsonian FC 19-26 Stirling County

Match Report: Women’s Premiership Final – Watsonian FC 19-26 Stirling County

A dramatic comeback from Stirling County secured them a second consecutive Premiership title, as they came from 19-0 down to win 26-19 at Myreside.

Watsonian FC were rampant in the opening exchanges, but found their quest for an unbeaten league campaign unraveled at the final hurdle after a massive change in momentum once County found their first score.

Conditions were blustery as Watsonians kicked off, which may have impacted their decision to not take the points from a penalty after 44 seconds in front of the posts. Instead they opted for a centrefield scrum, and their decision proved fantastic and the backs worked down the right side for Shannon Macey to dart into the line from full back and exploit a gap, diving over in the corner.

It was Stirling who came forward in waves across the next five minutes, marshalled by stand-off Ceitidh Ainsworth, but each time Watsonians found the answer and managed to clear their lines.

The midfield scrum provided another solid platform for the home side’s backs to attack the right side, with Minala Taoi nearly into the corner for a score on just her second game for the side, but she was bundled into touch, with her attempted offload hitting a County player and going out for a Watsonians lineout five metres out.

On the second phase after the lineout, Watsonians were over again. The maul was thwarted successfully by Stirling, but quick ball from Rachel Law found Molly Poolman, who stretched and just made the line.

Watsonians were then awarded a penalty in the 18th minute at ruck time, and it was booted into the left corner. Watsonians looked to have lost it as the worked infield, but gathered it back and kept it within the forward pack, going forward inch by inch. It was Lucy Winter who finally burrowed over just outside the left 15m line, wrestling past the defence to grab the third score.

Stirling County’s best chance so far came in the 25th minute, with strong carries from Holland Bogan and Ailsa Luke getting the Bridgehaugh outfit forward. The ball was worked to the right wing where they looked to have an overlap on the edge of the 22, but the ball squirmed into touch and the opportunity was missed.

But they did get themselves on the scoreboard in the 32nd minute thanks to a moment of brilliance from Ceitidh Ainsworth. The young 10 darted through the smallest of gaps in midfield and was too quick for the defence, running the outside arc and bringing her team into the game.

Stirling nearly got themselves a second score with the final play of the half, with Sophie Murphy battling her way to the line from five metres out, but Watsonians managed to hold her up and took a 12-point lead into the break.

Half time: Watsonian FC 19-7 Stirling County

Stirling were held up once more in the 48th minute. After several penalties which were all taken quickly, it was Claudia McLaren who got round her opposite centre and thought she had reached the line, but the home defence scrambled to keep her out.

They were not to be denied in the 54th minute. Again taking the tap and go from a number of penalties in Watsonians’ 22, it was Chloe Brown who fought to get the ball down when the Edinburgh side again tried to hold it up.

The visitors then camped in Watsonians’ 22 for nearly 10 minutes, but a loose ball eventually got the side in maroon and white up the pitch. Briar McNamara hacked on twice and for a moment looked like she might go the length, but Sarah Murdoch swept up well to save the situation.

The dynamic of the game had completely shifted though, and County deservedly took the lead in the 70th minute. It was Ceitidh Ainsworth with her second of the game, selling the dummy just three metres out and finding the line under pressure to dot down beneath the sticks.

Watsonians looked for a near-instant reply, breaking down the right and then getting close from a snipe at the ruck, but Ailie Tucker’s attempt to fight over from inches out was unsuccessful, the County defence getting a hold up of their own.

The goalline dropout was blocked though, and County were forced to ground the ball over their own line. From the scrum Watsonians roared to the line, but Freya Walker couldn’t quite hold on to the ball as she reached for the line, giving Stirling the scrum, from which they exited.

And with seconds left on the clock, the title was secured. A well-worked break down the right saw the ball reach Fionn Keys, who managed to get the ball grounded right in the corner under immense pressure from the recovering defence.

Full time: Watsonian FC 19-26 Stirling County

Watsonian FC: 15. Shannon Macey 14. Minala Taoi 13. Rachel Philipps 12. Briar McNamara 11. Ami Conchie 10. Susie Clements 9. Rachel Law CAPTAIN 1. Ailie Tucker VICE-CAPTAIN 2. Molly Poolman 3. Cait Abernethy 4. Sophie Anderson 5. Kaeli King 6. Lucy Winter 7. Grace Laverty 8. Freya Walker

Replacements: 16. Leigh-Ann Lawrie 17. Anna Swan 18. Sarah Donnelly 19. Laura Buckingham 20. Julie Lyons 21. Jessica Elliott 22. Mary Nelson

Stirling County: 15. Sky Phimister 14. Fionn Keys 13. Claudia McLaren 12. Ciorstaidh Ainsworth 11. Sarah Murdoch 10. Ceitidh Ainsworth 9. Jodie Murdoch CAPTAIN 1. Ailsa Luke 2. Aicha Sutcliffe 3. Chloe Brown 4. Holland Bogan 5. Sophie Murphy 6. Sam Taganekurukuru 7. Heather Davis 8. Rachel Cox

Replacements: 16. Eilidh Fleming 17. Keira MacDonald 18. Paige Aitken-Robinson 19. Elsa Quigley 20. Eilidh Graham 21. Rebecca More 22. Joy Fletcher

Referee: Chelsea Gillespie AR1: Mary Pringle AR2: Alana McLean

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