THE headline act of the four girls finals scheduled to take place on National Youth Finals Day on Sunday is the under-18 Cup clash between Biggar and Stirling County on the international pitch at Murrayfield at 4pm.
Stirling County defeated Edinburgh Harlequins 55-0 in the final last term, but will expect a sterner test here against the club who have been their biggest rivals at female youth level for a number of years.
The strength-in-depth at both clubs when it comes to the girls game is backed up by the fact that Stirling County and Biggar also meet in the under-16 Cup final earlier in the day at Hive Stadium at 11.30am. Last term they also met in the final at under-16 level and Biggar won that won 38-5.
Ahead of these matches, Biggar’s girls rugby convenor Katie Mellanby said: “We have respect for Stirling County and what they have done for the growth of the girls game, and these will be two great matches while we have worked very hard at the club to put in place a strong girls set-up and we are continuing to build on that at a time when the women’s game is growing all the time.
“The under-16 and under-18 squads work so hard with their coaches at training and the teamwork element is very important at the club, it is great to see them all working together to achieve things.
“We have close links with the women’s senior section at Biggar and the hope is that we will see a lot of these young girls playing for that team in the next few years.”
Meanwhile, Mark Reid, the head coach of the Stirling County under-18s, said: “This is a really big weekend for the club because we have two girls squads involved on Sunday as well as the under-18 boys [who are in their own Cup final versus Boroughmuir] while the senior women are in the Premiership final against Watsonians on Saturday.
“That shows how much importance the club places on the youth and female sides of the game and, in terms of the under-18 girls, they are all looking forward to the final.
“As always, we expect a tough match against Biggar, but getting to play on the main pitch at Murrayfield is a great opportunity and I want the players to embrace it.”
Ross Haddow, part of County’s under-16 coaching set up, added: “We have played Biggar twice and lost twice so far this season, but they have both been very competitive matches and matches the girls have learnt a lot from.
“There is no doubt in my mind they will be taking those learnings into this game and it should be a really closely-fought encounter once again.
“It is just good to see so many young girls enjoying the game at County and there is a strong pathway at the club.”
Like Stirling County and Biggar, Dumfries Saints have two girls sides in action on Sunday. In the under-18 Shield final they will be taking on Garioch at 4pm at Hive Stadium, and in the under-16s Shield final they will be up against Annan on back pitch 1 at 11.30am.
Dumfries Saints rugby development officer Dominic Stewart said: “It is exciting for the club to have two girls teams involved here and great to have an all-Dumfries & Galloway final when the under-16s play Annan.
“Our under-18s so very nearly made it to the Cup final, but they were edged out 19-17 by Stirling after a good contest.
“That result stung for a wee while, but the girls have regrouped and are now fully focused on the Shield final versus Garioch
“The two teams met a few weeks ago and Dumfries won [36-10 on November 19th] and the team know they’ll need to put in a strong performance at the Hive to repeat that.
“In terms of the under-16s, they have played Annan twice this season and to date it is 1-1, so the final will be like the third game in a three-game series. The under-16 group are very enthusiastic and have prepared well for the game.”
Anna Newsome, who coaches the Garioch under-18 team, said: “This is really a big moment for girls rugby across the north of Scotland, not just for Garioch, because in recent times we have welcomed in players from other clubs like Mackie, Ellon, Moray, Caithness, Huntly and Perthshire who maybe were sole females in their age-group at their clubs of origin.
“We are able to give them game time while they still wear the socks of their clubs of origin and they are proud to support Garioch and also support where they came from.”
James Cable, one of the Annan under-16 coaches, said: “We have a young team, most the girls bar two will still be eligible for the under-16s next year. Some of the teams we have come up against this season are more experienced than us, but the girls really are learning quickly and it is great to see the bonds and the team spirit they have built up.
“Going to finals day is a big adventure for them and I’m sure they have a good travelling support cheering them on and girls rugby at Annan can continue to grow from this exciting moment.”
Girls National Youth Finals Day schedule and teams –
- 11.30am – U16 Shield final – Annan versus Dumfries Saints – Murrayfield back pitch 1
Annan: A Canning; M Grierson, E Harrison, E Cable, P Mitchel; Y Stuart, S Quinn©; M Gale, A Kerr, M Hutchinson, L Bowness, L College, J Halliday. Substitutes: J Sokolowski, A Thompson.
Dumfries Saints: G Hamlet; M Halliday, R Rae, L Giles, K McMath; A Macaulay, R Hamilton; E Hyslop, Z Fisher, I Mackenzie Wilson©, E Bruce, K Fell, A Hamilton. Substitutes: J Skilling, A Brown, S Fleming, E Wilson, K Stewart, D McCullough, G Kirkpatrick.
- 11.30am – U16 Cup final – Biggar versus Stirling County – Hive Stadium
Biggar: N Murray; E Storie, B Baillie, E Wyllie, Z Oattes; S Mellanby, S Anderson; L Clarkson©, L Cuthbertson, C Leiper, C Hoad, C Tweedie, A Macdougall©. Substitutes: E Stewart, J Cuthbertson, S Earl, M Gemmell, G Bartholomew, M McVeigh, V Ertze.
Stirling County: H Wood; Z Campbell, E Anderson, K Forrest, J Haddow; H Blair, L Sinclair; S Lawrence, E Sansom©, P Wicks, R Wynne, N Ogg, S Antczak. Substitutes: K Allison, S Clarke, A Doak, J Ledingham, P Malley-Smith, A Powrie-Smith, S Scott.
- 4pm – U18 Shield final – Dumfries Saints versus Garioch – Hive Stadium
Dumfries Saints: M Dunn; M Fergusson, K Smith, S Smith, A Wright; A Peacock, D McFegan©; K Knox, C Nicholson, L Taperell, M Russell, Z Kilpatrick, M Burg, E Menzies, M Walls. Substitutes: H Bowran, L Nelson, L Begg, L Cannon, B Feather.
Garioch: E Hay; T Crofts, J Foubister, N Howard, T Rosie; S Alexander, J Curry; M Riach©, I Ashley, J Norrie, L Mitchell, F Sanderson, K Maclachlan, E Craig, I Sanderson. Substitutes: P Brence, P Lawson, E Forgie, S Dunnett, J Cairns, R Lamplugh, M Williamson.
- 4pm – U18 Cup final – Biggar versus Stirling County – Murrayfield international pitch
Biggar: S Murray; I Kane, F Lejkowski, A Barrett, N MacGregor; P Mellanby, A Godfrey; E Logan, S Cullen, K Calikes, E Walker, L McCutcheon, H Wilson, E Coubrough, I Spence©. Substitutes: A Court, N Kimm, M MacGregor, T Henderson, F Laing, R Hynd, E Kane.
Stirling County: E Norval; S Haddow, H Howland, M Walker, O Izon; E Forsyth, J Black; R Blackhall, M Lidbetter, E Rae, D Morrison, M Gibbons, Z Pike, E Gibbons, G Thomson©. Substitutes: M Khan, M Harrop, O Porter, M Smith, L Woods, N Reid, R Guthrie-Dawber.