GARY HEATLY @ BT Murrayfield
STEWARTRY captain Chloe Johnstone praised the team spirit and hard work her charges have shown this season after they ended a successful spell by lifting the BT Women’s Plate at BT Murrayfield.
The Sirens performed well in their first season in the BT Women’s Premier League and took that form into this Plate event. On the back pitches at the national stadium in this showpiece final they were tied 17-17 with County at half-time, but in the second half they stepped things up a notch and came out on top 29-17.
Centre Johnstone, who was one of the stand-out players in the Stewartry side along with Player-of-the-Match Lisa Ritchie and back-row Sammy Durnan, said: “Over the season we have all worked very hard for a day like this and to be heading back to the club with a trophy means a lot to us all.
“We tend to be slow starters in matches and that was kind of the case in this one again, but scoring a try just before half-time to put us level at 17-17 meant that we could regroup and really show what we are all about after the break.
“I thought in the second 40 minutes we showed what we can do, were more composed and we attacked and defended well.
“We can now take loads of confidence from this win into next season when we hope to compete well again in the top league.”
County got off to a flyer and a great run by full-back Jess McGurk saw them open the scoring.
A reversed penalty some 20 metres from the County line then caught them napping and scrum-half Claire Manson levelled things up for Stewartry with a try from a quick tap.
Winger Hannah Sherlock scored a cracking second try for Stewartry and when stand-off Lisa Ritchie converted it was 12-5.
County fought back with an unconverted try by scrum-half Jodie Hutton and then when centre Siobhan Cattigan went over and converted her own try they were 17-12 to the good.
A score from Stewartry full-back Jenny Yates in the 39th minute meant this one was nicely poised at 17-17 at the interval.
In the second half, Stewartry were more composed and looked like the side more likely to go on and win this one, and they did that thanks to two cracking tries by Ritchie, who also added one conversion to finish things at 29-17.
For County, number eight Gemma Brown carried well and skipper Rachel Shankland was always a danger from centre, but it was not to be.
Stewartry: J Yates; B Cameron, C Johnstone (C), I St Joseph, D Burnett; L Ritchie, C Manson; S Nicholson, A McWilliam, D Currie, T Tyeson, C Dooley, R Bragg, S Durnan, A Henderson. Subs: L Tracey, J White, H Sloan H Sherlock.
Stirling County: J McGurk; L Hannah, R Shankland (C), S Cattigan, L Flint; L Mcnaughton, J Hutton; G Henderson, T Scott, E McNab, K Johnson, D Christie, N Mcleod, H Davis, G Brown. Subs: D Park, T Grobler, J Menday, A Bax, B Afford, K McIlwraith, V Gray.
Referee: Kelly Mitchell.
Stewartry: Tries: Manson, Sherlock, Yates, Ritchie 2; Cons: Ritchie 2.
Stiring County: Tries: McGurk, Hutton, Cattigan; Con: Cattigan.
Scoring sequence (Stewartry first): 0-5; 5-5; 10-5; 12-5; 12-10, 12-15; 12-17; 17-17 (h-t) 22-17; 27-17; 29-17.
Player-of-the-Match: Two tries in the second half and an all-round solid display at stand-off saw Lisa Ritchie of Stewartry gain this award.
Talking Point: A cracking advert for women’s rugby, both sides tried to throw the ball about at every opportunity and showed there is life beyond Murrayfield Wanderers and Hillhead/Jordanhill.