THE SARAH BEANEY CUP gets underway for 2023-24 on Sunday with a tasty-looking repeat of last year’s final among the three scheduled games.
This season’s tournament will consist of the top seven teams from the Premiership which concluded before Christmas with league champions Stirling County being joined by Watsonians, Hillhead Jordanhill, Corstorphine, Heriot’s Blues, Cartha Queens Park and Garioch.
The teams will play each other once home or away with the top two teams after seven rounds of action then progressing to the final on Silver Saturday on April 27that Murrayfield.
With some players away on Celtic Challenge duty, the squad depth at a number of clubs is going to be rigorously tested, not least with reigning champions Watsonians (a number of players in action for either Edinburgh or Glasgow Warriors this weekend), who play last season’s beaten finalists Corstorphine Cougars (also a number of players missing for the Celtic Challenge) at Union Park.
The other two ties on Sunday are Heriot’s Blues-Garioch and a Glasgow derby where Hillhead Jordanhill take on Cartha Queens Park.
The Lowdown –
Corstorphine Cougars v Watsonians
Venue: Union Park @ 2pm
Corstorphine: K Honjigawa©; R Laurenson, L McGrotty, M Welsh, L Young; T Griffith, P Benson; L Green, K Fraser, E Donaldson©, L Russell, C Hadley, Z Turner, A Anderson, L Kidd. Subs: D Anderson, E Sword, H Ramsay, F Sutherland, K Weighill, B Douglas.
Watsonians: R Law©; S Macey, A McKenzie, J Lyons, A Conchie; S Clements, M Nelson; S Donnelly, L-A Lawrie, C Abernethy, A Swan, C Hall, J Menday, C Runcie, L Buckingham. Subs: R McNeil, G Laverty, A Hughes, K Natt.
Key battle: Tanya Griffith versus Susie Clements
Team news –
Corstorphine: Emma Turner is the Glasgow Warriors co-captain while Adelle Ferrie, Merryn Gunderson and Alex Stewart are all starting for Edinburgh Rugby this weekend. Kaylee Fraser and Bekah Douglas (both Glasgow training squad) and Edinburgh training squad members Zoe Turner and Lucy Kidd are available for this tie. Co-captain Kiyomi Honjigawa recently played for Glasgow too.
Watsonians: Mary Nelson, Ami Conchie, and April McKenzie have been released by Edinburgh for this one and the latter will make her debut for the club here. Kainat Natt is also set to make her first appearance off the bench.
What the coaches say –
“The big goal for us this weekend was to field a side in the Cup and one in the Shield which we’ve done. That’s a great start to the year for us and the leadership group for the Cup campaign have done an excellent job. We’ve had to deal with the disruption of the weather for training, but we’ve made the most of it and had a good session Thursday in preparation for Watsonians. It’s an Edinburgh derby, so anything can happen. They’ll be keen to come to Union Park and to put in a good performance after we stole a draw from them in the last play of the game in December …” – Eric Jones (Corstorphine)
“We’re excited to get back to playing after a six week break. It’s a sign of how far we’ve come since last season that with eight players involved in the Celtic Challenge this weekend and several others unavailable, we can still turn out such a strong squad. As always, Cougars will be tough opposition on their home patch, but training has been excellent and we’re very much ready for the challenge …” – Bruce Millar (Watsonians)
Verdict: Both clubs have been stretched by Celtic Challenge involvement and that is testament to how strong they have been since the pandemic. Tip of the hat to Corstorphine whose second team are due to play Biggar at the same time in the National Shield. The Cup tie will be close, but home advantage may just edge it.
Heriot’s Blues v Garioch
Venue: Goldenacre @ 2pm
Heriot’s Blues: H Riddoch; D Stamp, P Kellie, B Cameron, E Ashton; L Martin, A Evans; M Capaldi, R Healey, M Dadie, C Syme©, A Murray, M Taylor©, A Savage, J Courtney. Subs; H Doward, M McNee, T Jenkinson.
Garioch: E Dicks; T Fowlie, S Ross©, S Pepper, L Sneddon; N Chalk, L Keay; J Shaw, M Stewart, K Jamieson, A Ross, J Silcocks, S Burnett, H Small, L McDiarmid. Subs: K Eades, B Mullinor, M Falls, A Rose Love, L Davis, K Grant, N Harper.
Key battle: Pearl Kellie versus Sammy Ross
Team news –
Heriot’s Blues: Pearl Kellie and Millie Capaldi, both of whom have been involved in the Celtic Challenge with Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively, are available and start at centre and loose-head respectively. Emma Orr is with Edinburgh.
Garioch: Nikki Simpson and Megan Hyland are in the Glasgow 23 to face the Clovers, with Charlotte Burrows also in the wider Warriors squad.
What the coaches say –
“We are really excited to be getting back to playing some rugby and the Sarah Beaney Cup gives us a great platform to ensure we continue to grow and develop as a team. We have appointed Carl McWilliam as a dedicated backs coach going into the Cup and his coaching experience will be hugely beneficial. It will be great to see how Pearl and Millie have benefitted from their time with each of the Celtic Challenge teams. As always it’ll be great to host Garioch and we very much looking forward to the challenge of our first Cup match of the season …” – Craig Robertson (Heriot’s Blues)
“We are looking forward to getting back to it. We’ve really struggled to train due to snow/flooded pitches so this week is the first week we have trained since the festive break, really. The Cup is a good chance for us to try different combinations and it is really pleasing to have full squad going down to Edinburgh when we are missing three girls to the Celtic Challenge …” – Dave Duguid (Garioch)
Verdict: Garioch finished the league season very well to leapfrog Stewartry and avoid relegation. As a result, they will be feeling good heading south, but if former Scotland captain Lisa Martin can get the Heriot’s backline firing from 10 they should have too much.
Hillhead Jordanhill v Cartha Queens Park
Venue: Hughenden @ 2pm
Hillhead Jordanhill: Forwards from: C McGowan, D Lee, F Campbell, H Telling©, H Lockhart, K Yeomans, LJ Crawford, P Abernethy, R Millar, R Davidson, S Marra, Z Durra. Backs from: B Tobin, B Carberry, E Barlow, H Dunnett, H McHugh, J Miles, M Wales, M Grant, M Warren, S Smolina.
Cartha Queens Park: C Olsen; N McCreadie, I Whyte, J McAslan, M Gribben; C Bell, S Jessiman; C Baker-Hughes, S Djoh©, R Cobban, A McIntosh, J Enright, K Gray, K Brown, S McMillan. Subs: G Walker, E Gilmour, R Mathieson, G Steele.
Key battle: Hannah Telling versus Kirsty Brown
Team news –
Hillhead Jordanhill: A tough selection with a total of 47 players available to pick from. Debbie Lee and Beth Tobin have been released from the Warriors squad this weekend with Sonia Smolina involved as she builds towards the Rugby Europe Championship with Sweden.
Cartha Queens Park: Siobhan McMillan, the former Scotland cap and ex-Hills player, returns to the team following injury issues, and some younger players are stepping up the 1st XV like Rosie Mathieson and Niamh McCreadie who had a number of strong performances in the seconds pre-Christmas.
What the coaches say –
“Everyone around the squad is really excited and eager to get back into competitive action this weekend. Spirits, numbers and performance levels have been very high at training in recent weeks. We know what we’re capable of as a team, now it is time to put the head down and take the Cup one game at a time. We are looking forward to welcoming our rivals and friends from across the city to Hughenden on Sunday …” – Stephen Gillies (Hillhead Jordanhill)
“We have trained hard since the Christmas break and whilst still missing missing a few players everyone is keen to get going again. We look forward to the trip across town for the first Glasgow derby of 2024 against our old friends Hills. The atmosphere and attitude from the squad at training these last few weeks has been top notch …” – Ally Hunter (Cartha Queens Park)
Verdict: Hills finished fourth in the Premiership and Cartha sixth. The Hughenden side won both the league meets comfortably and while this one will likely be closer, the hosts will have too much power for their visitors.