Tennent’s Women’s Premiership 2022/23 Semi-Final 1 | Preview
After 12 rounds of fierce competition across the Tennent’s Women’s Premiership, we now have our four finalists for the semi-finals.
Topping the table with 11 wins from 12 is Stirling County, followed by Corstorphine Cougars. Last year’s champions, Watsonians FC, finished in third place, and Heriot’s Blues claimed fourth place.
This weekend (Saturday 14 January) the first of our semi-finals will take place.
Corstorphine Cougars will host Watsonians FC at Union Park, kicking off at 1.30pm.
We caught up with each team’s Head Coach and Captain ahead of the fixture.
With a sizeable player rotation and a new Head Coach joining the fold, there has been a lot of change this season for reigning champions, Watsonians FC.
Bruce Millar joined Watsonians in July 2022 from Duns, armed with more than 20 years of coaching and condition experience under his belt.
Reflecting on the last 12 rounds of competition, Millar said: “It has still been a very positive season overall. We’re pleased to have made the league semi-final having finished third, and as a result we have a very tight-knit squad who work incredibly hard for each other.
“There are a few games where we’ve just come out on the wrong side of the result or let the game get away from us in the closing stages. The biggest issue has been a lack of numbers due to retirements and injury. We’ve been competitive in all our games but sometimes ran out of steam when we had squads of only 18 or 19.”
Watsonians will face Cougars on Saturday, away from home with the top-ranked team awarded the home-advantage.
The sides have only met once in the league this year, with one fixture awarded as a 28-0 win to Cougars due to injuries from Watsonians’ side.
In Round 8 on Sunday 13 November, Cougars narrowly edged the win 19-34.
Reflecting on their previous encounter, Millar said: “Cougars are a tough side to break down. They defended brilliantly against us at Myreside, varied their attack and kicked well. I’m sure they’ll be even harder to beat on their own patch, but we’ll certainly be giving it our best shot.”
In preparation for the game, Millar’s squad has been focusing on not only looking at their structures and process, but the values the squad will look to uphold, adding: “We re-started training last week and put on an extra session on Saturday to help build momentum into this week. We also spent time looking the processes we need to follow as well as our squad values and how following them will help us to achieve what we want from this season.”
After making her debut with the club last season, hooker Kaeli King stepped into the role of Vice Captain for the 2022/23 season.
Looking ahead to the challenge on Saturday, King and her squad intend to approach the semi-final with a cool head, saying: “We’re going in without expectations of the outcome; we want the win, but we will focus on the things we can control. First and foremost, we focus on our game plan.
“The final is beyond achievable for our squad. We have a hunger for it that has steadily built over the season. I personally would love for the effort from the squad to go recognised. To make it to the final means their work has come to fruition and I believe they deserve it.”
With the challenges that come along with change, King is especially proud of how her team have fronted up.
“I could not ask more from Watsonians’ this year. I said at the beginning of the season there were a great number of changes in the squad – including a new coach, and a significant turnover in players. But every woman who has pulled on the Watsonians jersey this year has done it justice”, said King.
“When we began the season, the players sat down and discussed what we wanted a Watsonian woman to look like. We had a massive chalkboard, and we drew up characteristics that were important; a good sportswoman, someone who was determined, who wants to learn and get better, a woman who gives 100%, someone who plays for her team.
“It’s been a mixed bag of a season, but I am beyond pleased with everyone’s performance – win or lose – because we stayed true to our principles of being a Watsonian woman. Everyone woman on our squad is a Watsonian woman, and captain Briar and me couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Looking at the opposition, Corstorphine Cougars spent much of the season hot on the heels of Stirling County, finishing the regular league in second place. County’s only defeat this season (Saturday 8 October) was in the hands of Cougars (20-27).
Their league placement sees them finish a spot higher than last year’s third place finish.
“You’re right, it’s an improvement on last year, but if we’re honest, we want to be the best team in Scotland, so coming top of the league was always something we’re aiming for”, said Head Coach, Eric Jones.
“However, securing a home semi-final at Union Park is big for us and going up against last year’s Champions makes for an exciting game.
“Playing against Watsonians has always been a tough one, and earlier in the season came down to the last play of the game. We know Saturday will be another hard-fought match, as all semi-finals should be.”
This is Cougars third consecutive season (2019/20, 2021/22 and 2022/23) reaching the semi-finals of the Tennent’s Premiership.
In both 2019/20 and 2021/22, Cougars’ shot at the final were foiled by Hillhead Jordanhill (25-21 and 25-17 respectively).
Jones added: “It’s been small margins – less than a converted try – each time we’ve lost in the semi’s. We’ll be looking to focus on doing the basics well and the team will also look to their culture, something we’ve spoken about all year.”
Cougars Captain, Emma Turner is equally as ready to face tomorrow’s contest head-on, saying:
“I’m immensely proud of the team this year, week in week out the girls have shown up and put in so much effort which has given us some great results.
“It’s always a tough battle against Watsonians. They’re a very physical team but we’ve prepared well and are ready for the challenge.
“It would mean everything to me to reach the final. We’ve had the third-place curse for the past two seasons, and I think we’ve worked so hard throughout and we deserve to be there this year.”