Stirling County 19
GARY HEATLY @ Hive Stadium
NEVE MURRAY scored one of the best solo try efforts ever seen at Hive Stadium as Biggar defeated Stirling County to win the National Youth girls under-16 Cup final.
Stirling led 19-17 at half-time, but Biggar scored 21 unanswered points after the interval to retain the silverware they also lifted last year.
Richard Mellanby, one of the Biggar coaches, said: “We have a lot of respect for Stirling and they really took the game to us. In key moments we were composed and in the second half we played with great energy. We also have some very quick players who came up with some moments of magic when it mattered and we are proud of the whole squad.”
The game started at a frantic pace with County having most of the possession and scrum-half Leah Sinclair leading the way, but Biggar defended well.
In the ninth minute, Lilly Clarkson, the Biggar co-captain, had a good run and that gave her side confidence. A minute later they went in for the day’s first try via centre Beth Baillie. It was unconverted and they were 5-0 up.
County hit straight back thanks to a try, following a slaloming run, by centre Emma Anderson. Full-back Heather Wood converted and it was 7-5.
Then came the moment of the match in the 15th minute. Biggar were under real pressure and were in danger of getting caught in their own dead ball area, but then their full-back Murray managed to find some space on the outside and streaked away.
She showed great pace and kept on going and going, indeed before everyone in the crowd could blink she was in the County 22. The defence just could not catch her and as she dived over the line it was a length-of-the-field effort that Francesca McGhie or Rhona Lloyd would have been proud of.
Biggar had their tails up now and second-row Caitlin Tweedie scored a try with centre Emma Wyllie converting to give them a 10-point lead.
County recovered from that though and they scored next thanks to a good finish by their winger Jasmine Haddow. Wood converted and it was 17-14 to Biggar.
Stirling then went ahead when Anderson scored her second of the day, this time unconverted, to make it 19-17 to them, and they ended the 30-minute half on the front foot, but with two points in it this game was still very much in the balance.
And four minutes into the second period Biggar went ahead with a try through replacement scrum-half Morgan Gemmell with Wyllie converting to make it 24-19 in this end-to-end contest.
County winger Zoe Campbell then set off on a good run down the right, but Murray made a very good tackle to put her into touch.
Stirling piled on the pressure looking for their fourth try of the day and they were held up over the try line at one stage, but then Biggar streaked up the other end and bagged their fifth. It was a cracking effort by stand-off Sophie Mellanby – showing footwork reminiscent of Ceitidh Ainsworth of County in the women’s Premiership final the day before – and then Wyllie converted to make it 31-19.
Mellanby then scored another late on to seal the win with the same player converting to make it 38-19 and it finished that way.
Ross Haddow, one of the County coaches, said: “The girls can be very proud of their efforts and it just wasn’t to be on the day.
“We took our tries well and played some really good rugby, but in the second period Biggar just got away from us a bit and we couldn’t quite haul it back in.
“We have some great young female rugby players at the club and that pathway will continue going forward, it’s exciting.”
Meanwhile, on the back pitches at Murrayfield, Annan just pipped Dumfries Saints 38-34 to lift the National Youth girls under-16 Shield.
Aylish Kerr, Marnie Gale and Pagan Mitchel scored tries for Annan in the first half with Anna Canning converting two. Gabriella Hamlet and Lucy Giles scored Dumfries tries and it was 19-12 at the break. Hamlet’s second try made it 19-17 before a third for her made it 22-19 to Dumfries and then a Zara Fisher effort extended that advantage to 27-19.
With Annan skipper Shaenah Quinn then in the sin bin, Fisher’s second try made it 34-19.
Annan then sparked an amazing comeback. Megan Hutchinson, Evie Stuart and Giles, the latter at the death, scored tries with Canning converting two as they won 38-34.
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©. Subs: 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. Subs: K Allison, S Clarke, A Doak, J Ledingham, P Malley-Smith, A Powrie-Smith, S Scott.
Referee: Niamh Hay.
Biggar: Tries: Baillie, Murray, Tweedie, Gemmell, Mellanby 2. Cons: Wyllie 3, Mellanby.
Stirling County: Tries: Anderson 2, Haddow. Cons: Wood 2.
Scoring sequence (Biggar first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 10-7; 15-7; 17-7; 17-12; 17-14; 17-19 (h-t) 22-19; 24-19; 29-19; 31-19; 36-19; 38-19.
Player-of-the-Match: For Stirling County, centre Emma Anderson was a constant threat and winger Jasmine Haddow has real pace. Biggar full-back Neve Murray’s first half moment lit up the Hive and Lilly Clarkson, the loose-head who is co-captain, carried well, but their stand-off Sophie Mellanby gets the nod for an assured showing and calmness under pressure.
Talking point: Neve Murray’s try – you don’t often see a score from behind a team’s own try line and she must have covered 100 plus metres. She will not forget that moment in a hurry!