Corstorphine Cougars 17
GARY HEATLY @ Union Park
17 UNANSWERED points in the second half saw Corstorphine Cougars eventually grind down reigning champions Watsonians to make it through to the women’s Premiership final.
Conditions were tricky with wind, rain, a bit of sleet and even a rainbow making an appearance during the 80 minutes, but credit to both sets of players for giving it their all.
Indeed, such was the defensive effort from both sides that the score was locked at 0-0 at half-time and the first points did not arrive until the 55th minute.
That was a penalty-try for the hosts which saw Watsonians lose a player to the sin-bin and Corstorphine had momentum from that moment on.
Two further tries came through hooker Lucy Park, and although they had a player yellow-carded with seven minutes to go, the home side held on to spark jubilant celebrations.
The Cougars will now take on either Stirling County or Heriot’s Blues in the final on January 28th and their head coach Eric Jones said: “I thought in the first half we had a couple of opportunities which we gave up, but we trusted our defensive systems and kept them to nil, so it was a case of resetting things at half-time and just asking the team for a big 40 minutes.
“We stuck to everything that we know and that we believe in during that second half and I knew eventually that would get us over the line.
“The pack has been playing well all season, but January and February time is when the pitches are a bit trickier, so when they really needed to put in a shift I thought our forwards were excellent in this game.
“They played the conditions well, managed things well and they had to so that we could beat a battling Watsonians side who really took it to us.
“You could see at the end just how much this win means for the players, the coaches and the whole club.
“Over the last few years we have worked hard to get the team competing for honours and we also have a 2nd XV now which makes training good, keeps selection competitive and pushes all the players on.
“We’ll enjoy this win and then start preparing for the final.”
With Cougars having finished second in the regular season table and Watsonians third, with the one league game between them having been settled by a late try, this was always going to be a tight tussle. And the first period really was an arm wrestle with both packs going toe-for-toe.
When the backs did get front foot ball, both sets of half-backs tried to bring width to the game. However, while there was plenty of endeavour, at times the slippery ball went loose or, more often than not, any attacker with half a yard of space was swallowed up by the defender in front of them.
So, the teams turned around at 0-0, but something had to give, and the first points came 15 minutes into the second half when the Cougars, attacking down the slope away from the clubhouse end, managed to get the upper hand in the scrums.
After one scrum infringement near the Watsonians line, referee Sean Niven had no hesitation in awarding a seven point penalty try.
To add insult to injury, he yellow carded ‘Sonians’ loose-head Ailie Tucker too – and the look on her and her team-mates’ faces showed how shocked they were that a penalty try had come at that stage.
That breakthrough certainly gave Cougars momentum and unconverted tries from Scotland cap Park, with the help of her pack-mates, in the 63rd and 78th minutes made sure of the triumph.
Five minutes before the second of those tries, home stand-off Tanya Griffith was yellow carded for a high tackle, but Watsonians just could not break down the Cougars defence.
The Myresiders head coach Bruce Millar said afterwards: “Credit to Cougars, they deserved the win in the end, but I really want to praise the effort that my players put in, I could not have asked for any more.
“We are disappointed because we were never found wanting, but just when it came down to that little bit extra to get through the defence we could not quite manage it.
“In the opening minutes there was a lot of intent in our carries and I thought that we were going to do well, but we could not get a score in the first quarter and then going in 0-0 at half-time made it tough.
“They were going downhill in tough conditions in the second half and once they got the first score we just couldn’t get a foothold back in the game.
“The girls in the huddle at the end were frustrated, but not despondent, and we will now dust ourselves down, rest up and get ready for the Sarah Beaney Cup [which is due to start next month].”
The second play-off semi-final is due to take place between league toppers County and fourth placed Heriot’s at Bridgehaugh on January 21st.
Corstorphine Cougars: K Honjigawa; L Young, A Clark, M Welsh, R Laurenson; T Griffith, P Benson; E Dunbar, L Park, K Fraser, L Kidd, A Ferrie, M Gunderson, L Glendinning, E Turner©. Subs: L Green, D Anderson, Z Turner, L McGrotty, R Bestwick.
Watsonians: J Lyons; S Macey, F McGhie, B McNamara©, A Hughes; S Clements, R Law; A Tucker, K King, C Abernethy, A Swan, J Menday, F Walker, G Laverty, M Poolman. Subs: K Craig, S Kearley, C Bain, I Bendall, M Nelson.
Referee: Sean Niven.
Corstorphine Cougars: Tries: Penalty Try, Park 2.
Watsonians: No scorers.
Scoring sequence (Corstorphine Cougars first): 0-0 (h-t), 7-0; 12-0; 17-0.
Yellow cards –
Corstorphine Cougars: Tanya Griffith (73mins)
Watsonians: Ailie Tucker (55mins)
Player-of-the-Match: Both sets of players put in a real shift here but for her two tries Cougars’ hooker Lucy Park gets the nod.
Talking point: This really was a full-on battle which came down to key moments and it showed in a nutshell just how competitive the women’s Premiership has been this season. Let’s hope for a similarly competitive second play-off semi-final between Stirling and Heriot’s next weekend.