THERE are only two games being played in the Women’s Premiership on Saturday, but both are important for different reasons.
With the team that finishes bottom of the table set to play in a round-robin against the top teams from the Caledonia Midlands/East and the West regional leagues in early 2024 with top flight status for next season on the line, the Garioch versus Stewartry match is huge.
This is the penultimate game of both their regular seasons and Garioch are eighth (bottom) on four points and Stewartry are seventh with five points.
When they met back in August, Stewartry just came out on top 32-29 and, with all that is at stake, expect another tight game here.
Meanwhile, at Myreside, Watsonians will complete their regular season campaign at home to fifth placed Corstorphine looking to finish unbeaten before their play-off for the title versus Stirling County on December 16th.
Meanwhile, a win for Corstorphine would give them fourth place and momentum heading into the Sarah Beaney Cup in the new year.
How us stands –
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The Lowdown –
Garioch v Stewartry
Venue: Kellands Park @ 2pm
Garioch: L Davis; C Burrows, S Ross©, S Pepper, E Dicks; N Chalk, A Rose Love; J Shaw, J Silcocks, L McDiarmid, A Ross, H Small, S Burnett, M Hyland, N Simpson. Subs: K Jamieson, M Stewart, B Mullinor, E Williamson, L Keay, L Sneddon, T Fowlie.
Stewartry: H Sainsbury; J Scott, P Snailham, C Johnston, D Burns; L Ritchie, B Ginnelly; C Dooley©, D Currie, L Nicholson, C Craik, J McCulloch, H Murdoch, S Durnan, A Henderson. Subs: A Oliver, A Scholtz, K Kennedy, K McReddie.
Key battle: Lindsey McDiarmid versus Clare Dooley
Team news –
Garioch: This week, 29 players were available so team selection was difficult and Thursday training determined a lot of places. Nikki Simpson, part of the wider Scotland squad, moves from hooker to No 8, with Jess Silcocks wearing the number two jersey.
Stewartry: Playmaker Lisa Ritchie, the former Scotland cap, is back from representing the British Police in Dubai last weekend and is at 10.
What the coaches say –
“This is a huge game for us and one we are really looking forward to, but we are trying not to put too much pressure on ourselves …” – Dave Duguid (Garioch)
“This is a great day for rugby communities well outside the central belt as it is North East versus South West and it is two evenly matched teams with a lot of history. Two seasons ago these clubs battled to get their Premiership opportunity [Garioch winning a National League play-off match 19-10 in 2021-22 before Stewartry were promoted last year] and, this weekend, they battle to protect it. It’s been inspiring to see how Garioch have developed over the last two seasons, but come game day the Sirens will respect Garioch and won’t be taking a backward step …” – Alastair Lamb (Stewartry)
Verdict: This will not be one for the faint hearted, that’s for sure! These sides have both been in the bottom two for a few weeks now and have had this game circled in their diary for a while. The experienced players on both sides will be key in terms of bringing clarity to proceedings and if Nikki Simpson can lead by example for Garioch, home advantage and bench options should just get them over the line for a first – and very important – victory of 2023-24.
Watsonians v Corstorphine
Venue: Myreside @ 2pm
Watsonians: J Lyons; M Taoi, J Elliott, B McNamara, A Conchie; S Clements, S Macey; A Tucker©, K Craig, C Abernethy, A Swan, K King, L Buckingham, F Walker, M Poolman. Subs: L-A Lawrie, J Driver, S Donnelly, J Menday, A Hughes, B Nelson.
Corstorphine: K Honjigawa; R Douglas, M Welsh, T Griffith, P Benson; H Ramsay, Z Turner; E Donaldson©, E Sword, K Fraser, C Hadley, A Ferrie, M Gunderson, A Stewart, L Kidd. Subs: K Lindsay, A Anderson, L Glendinning, L McGrotty, K Weighill.
Key battle: Molly Poolman versus Lucy Kidd
Team news –
Watsonians: A few players are unavailable due to it having been a planned week off before the fixture was rearranged, so Shannon Macey switches to scrum-half and Molly Poolman moves to No 8 from the front-row. The club are excited to see Minala Taoi make her debut on the wing. Ailie Tucker captains with Rachel Law not involved.
Corstorphine: Faye Sutherland and Lottie Russell are unavailable due to a Scotland under-18 camp which gives others the chance to step up. Regular captain Emma Turner is not available so Caitlan Hadley starts in the second-row and loose-head Emma Donaldson is skipper. Hannah Ramsay starts at 10 while Kiyomi Honjigawa returns to the 15 jersey. Katie Weighill comes onto the bench to potentially join her Liberton High School mates – Morgan Welsh and Alex Stewart – in playing at Premiership level.
What the coaches say –
“This is the ideal game a week before the final and we’ll need to be at our best against a Cougars side who don’t concede a lot of points and are always very hard to beat …” – Bruce Millar (Watsonians)
“We’re looking to finish off what has been a frustrating league season in positive fashion this weekend against Watsonians. They’ll be keen to not lose at home to us, so we’re expecting the usual tough match against them ahead of their final next week. They’ll also likely be buoyed by the return of a number of their squad from Dubai who wouldn’t have been available last week, but we are looking forward to the test …” – Eric Jones (Corstorphine)
Verdict: Watsonians have been the front runners all season long and have not been beaten yet. They will have one eye on the final next week, but know just how dangerous Corstorphine can be because the visitors won the corresponding fixture at Myreside 24-19 in November last year. A lot has changed since then, it will be a good contest, but the home side should have enough firepower led by the consistently excellent Briar McNamara.