MATCH REPORT: The Thistles v Combined Provinces
The Combined Provinces claimed a clean sweep of wins in the inaugural Celtic Challenge competition after a tightly contested match saw the visitors record a 26-33 win against The Thistles at DAM Health Stadium.
Combined Provinces were quick off the mark and were first on the scoreboard as Aoife Wafer dotted down behind the posts, with Dannah O’Brien adding the extras [0-7].
The visitors were able to extend their early lead on the 14th minute as hooker Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird crashed down under the posts to score, with O’Brien slotting through the conversion with ease [0-14].
The Thistles rallied and after a period of sustained pressure, they were able to capitalise when captain Meryl Smith crossed the whitewash, with Smith converting her own score [7-14].
On the 31st minute, The Thistles launched into action as an initial break from Nikki Simpson saw the ball go quickly through the side’s hands before finding Elliann Clarke who accelerated down the pitch to cross the line [12-14].
HALF-TIME: The Thistles 12-14 Combined Provinces
The Thistles were able to take the lead for the first time in the match on the 50th minute, as Shona Campbell collected a cross-field kick, offloading to Fran McGhie who fended off two defenders before cruising over the line, with Smith adding the extras [19-14].
Combined Provinces response was prompt, as Enya Breen dotted down from close range, followed by a successful conversion from O’Brien [19-21].
With momentum building, Combined Provinces were able to build a gap on the scoreboard after being awarded a penalty try following a knock-on from McGhie who was shown a yellow card for the infringement [19-28].
With five minutes to go, Breen grabbed her second try of the match after successfully charging down Smith’s clearance kick before collecting the ball and sprinting over the line [19-33].
As the clock approached full-time, some neat skills from Lucy MacRae saw her kick and chase a loose ball down the pitch and was close to being rewarded for her efforts. The Thistles were still able to capitalise as Combined Provinces were penalised for an infringement, resulting a penalty try being awarded to the hosts [26-33].
FULL-TIME: The Thistles 26-33 Combined Provinces
Speaking after the match, The Thistles Head Coach Claire Cruikshank said: “We are obviously disappointed to not get the win in the end but I think the word we’ve used to describe today is ‘proud’. Proud of how far the group has come from six weeks ago when we started this journey on a really wet and cold training session at DAM Health Stadium to where we are now.
“We were really close against Combined Provinces today and we were missing a bit of clinical detail around the breakdown against them.
“The tournament has been invaluable as some of these players have never experienced a standard of rugby like this so for them to have a stepping stone that shows them what it takes to play for their country is huge.
“The competition brings that next layer on top of their club rugby and bridges that gap between club and international. Hopefully we will see a few of the players go on to achieve international honours in the future.”
The Thistles: Roma Fraser (Cartha Queens Park); Sky Phimister (Stirling County), Shona Cambpell (GB 7s), Meryl Smith CAPTAIN (University of Edinburgh), Francesca McGhie (Watsonians); Ceitidh Ainsworth (Stirling County), Rhea Clarke (University of Edinburgh); Panashe Muzambe (Exeter Chiefs), Elis Martin (DMP Sharks), Elliann Clarke (University of Edinburgh), Eva Donaldson (University of Edinburgh), Natasha Logan (University of Edinburgh), Erinn Foley (Hillhead Jordanhill), Alex Stewart (University of Edinburgh), Emma Turner (Corstorphine Cougars)
Replacements: Nikki Simpson (Garioch), Poppy Fletcher (Heriot’s), Lindsay McDiarmid (Garioch), Freya Walker (Watsonians), Aila Ronald (University of Edinburgh), Mairi McDonald (Exeter Chiefs), Carla McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill), Lucy MacRae (Stirling County).
Combined Provinces: Meabh Deely (Connacht/Blackrock College RFC); Clare Gorman (Leinster/Old Belvedere RFC), Aoife Wafer (Leinster/Blackrock College RFC), Enya Breen (Munster/Blackrock College RFC), Tash Behan (Leinster/Blackrock College RFC); Dannah O’Brien (Leinster/Old Belvedere RFC), Molly Scuffil McCabe (Leinster/Railway Union); Linda Djougang (Leinster/Old Belvedere RFC), Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Munster/Old Belvedere RFC), Mary Healy (Leinster/Naas RFC/Suttonians RFC), Hannah O’Connor (Leinster/Blackrock College RFC)(captain), Fiona Tuite (Ulster/Old Belvedere RFC), Molly Boyne (Leinster/Railway Union RFC/Dublin University FC), Maeve Og O’Leary (Munster/Blackrock College RFC), Brittany Hogan (Ulster/Old Belvedere RFC)
Replacements: Chloe Blackmore (Leinster/Railway Union RFC), Niamh O’Dowd (Leinster/Old Belvedere RFC), Megan Louise Collis (Leinster/Railway Union RFC), Claire Bennett (Munster/UL Bohemians RFC), Eimear Corri (Leinster/Blackrock College RFC), Katie Whelan (Leinster/Old Belvedere RFC), Kayla Waldron (Connacht/Galwegians RFC), Ella Roberts (Leinster/Wicklow RFC).
Referee: Samuel O’Neil
Assistant Referee: Michael Todd
Assistant Referee: Mary Pringle