Hillhead Jordanhill 10
GARY HEATLY @ Murrayfield
DEPARTING head coach Aird Jardine admitted he could not have ended his four-year stint in charge of Hillhead Jordanhill in a better way after they defeated Watsonians to lift the Sarah Beaney Cup at BT Murrayfield this [Saturday] afternoon.
The Glasgow side brought an intensity and a physicality to the national stadium for this one which was very impressive as they scuppered ‘Sonians league and Cup double hopes with a 10-5 triumph.
Jardine, who is leaving the Hughenden club now, said: “I am so, so proud of this bunch of players, they just gave me everything in this game. We were comprehensively beaten by Watsonians in the Premiership final a few months ago and then lost our first Cup game to Heriot’s in the pool stage, so there was a lot of soul searching after those two games.
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“As a group, we came together and worked very hard on our game play, but more importantly we worked on the mental side of the game and the team spirit since then has been amazing.
“In this game, Watsonians threw everything at us, but all the players put their bodies on the line and it was a special day and a really nice way for me to sign off.
“I’ll miss working with this group, they really are special people, but it is time for a new challenge for me – I like to think we leave the squad in a great place.”
Scotland back-row Louise McMillan is also moving on from the club after seven years – most likely to play in England – and she leaves on a high after a player-of-the-match performance wearing number seven.
Victorious captain Debbie Lee said: “I am a bit emotional and a bit speechless, to be honest. The girls did so well and we are so happy to be sending Aird off with this result, he has been a brilliant coach and, more importantly, a friend to us all in the last few years.”
Before the game there was a minute of applause to mark the contribution internationalist Siobhan Cattigan – the Stirling County player who passed away aged 26 in November – made to rugby in Scotland.
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When Watsonians had thumped Hills 67-0 in the Tennent’s Premiership final in January, the Edinburgh side got off to a fast start. This time it was the Glasgow side who were quickly out of the traps and when they were awarded a penalty full-back Amanda Jane kicked the three points.
In the 10th minute, Watsonians were awarded a kickable penalty in front of the posts, but took a tap and, after the forwards had gone close, scrum-half Rachel Law fed winger Bryony Nelson out wide and she went over for an unconverted try.
As the first quarter came to an end, both sides were still feeling each other out and trying to get the upper hand, but, in the face of good defence from both outfits, often passes were going loose. Neither side could quite get their lineout firing either and the score remained 5-3.
Watsonians then had a scare when key player Briar McNamara went down injured, but the centre was able to play on after treatment.
In the 33rd minute, Hills got some of their strong runners like McMillan, stand-off Carla McDonald and centre Evie Wills working in tandem, and ‘Sonians did well to stop them before their defence became too stretched.
Watsonians’ teenage winger Francesca McGhie then showed how dangerous see can be with ball in hand with a run down the left.
Hills had brought an intensity to the party that we certainly did not see in the one-sided Premiership final and, just before the break, their dominance at scrum time won them a penalty. Loosehead prop Philippa Abernethy, scrummaging directly against her twin sister Cait, got a bloody nose for her troubles, while scrum-half Mairi McDonald’s penalty attempt just missed.
That left the score at 5-3 to Watsonians at half-time and this game was very much in the balance.
There were changes for both sides at the break and one of those, Mary Nelson of Watsonians, had a good run in the 52nd minute, but the brick wall that was the Hills defence stood firm.
And the Hills pack was really getting on the front foot with some good scrums and lineout drives as the hour mark came and went.
In the 66th minute, they got their reward when a powerful move by the pack got them within inches of the Watsonians line. The ball was then shipped right and centre Lucy Mills sent Jane in for a try. Jane then kept her cool to convert and make it 10-5.
With five minutes to go, McNamara burst through the middle and then, from a quick tap, Watsonians skipper Alice King tried to get her team’s second try, but she was hauled down. The ball was shipped right soon after, but a loopy pass was gobbled up by the Hills defence and they cleared.
They then held on for the last few minutes and Mairi McDonald kicked the ball into the East stand to spark celebrations for Hills.
Watsonians head coach Freddie Main said: “My players left absolutely everything out there and it was a hard fought game between two good sides, but credit to Hills they deserved to win.
“The breakdown was a key area and we probably didn’t adapt to things as quickly as we could have in that area, but I cannot fault my players efforts this season, they have been excellent.
“We won the Premiership and were knocking on the door until the last minute to win the Cup here. It was not to be and obviously we are gutted right now, but looking at the bigger picture women’s rugby at the club – and in Scotland – is in good health.”
EARLIER in the day, in the National Bowl final Cartha Claymores took home the trophy. The second XV of Cartha Queens Park had lost heavily to Greenock 69-7 in the Tennent’s West Regional League earlier in the season, but turned the tables here with a 29-22 win.
Two quick-fire tries in the 15th and 17th minutes from replacement centre Ellie Sutherland and winger Victoria Halstvedt, both converted by full-back Caitlin Bell, made it 14-0 to Cartha, before an unconverted try from winger Nicole De Angelo for Greenock meant it was 14-5 at half-time.
And Wanderers were right back into things just after the break when when full-back Katie Purves scored a try converted by loosehead prop Tina Hemphill.
Cartha fought back through Halstvedt’s second score before a five pointer from No 8 Lesley Cadenhead put them just two points behind at 19-17.
Sutherland’s second try put Cartha 24-17 up before centre Caitlyn Haldane crossed for Greenock to make it 24-22.
The game could have gone either way, but stand-off Hannah Welshman scored for Cartha late on and Bell converted to finish things at 29-22.
Lynsay Taylor, the skipper, lifted the trophy and Halstvedt was named Player-of-the-Match.
AND in the National Plate final, Biggar were too strong for Ayr, taking an early lead through an unconverted try by full-back Geraldine Kimm, with the same player scored two more to complete her hat-trick by the 19th minute. Stand-off Emma Orr, the Scotland cap, converted two to establish a 19-0 lead.
Hooker Shelley Main bagged an unconverted effort for Ayr, but centre Emilia Knights scored a converted try for Biggar to make it 26-5 at half-time.
Emma Orr scored Biggar’s fifth try after the break and then replacement Kirsty Ritchie went over before winger Alice Wilson got Ayr’s second try.
Centre Hannah Young grabbed Ayr’s third try, converted by skipper Catherine Shennan, and they finished strongly with a final score from Robynn Gibson.
Abbie Baillie, the Biggar skipper, lifted the trophy and Kimm was named Player-of-the-Match.
Sarah Beaney Cup Final teams –
Watsonians: J Lyons; B Nelson, S Clements, B McNamara, F McGhie; C Bain, R Law; A Tucker, K King, C Abernethy, N Brown, S Jones, F Walker, C Runcie, A King©. Subs: S Kearley, J Relph, R Sinclair, LL Wilkie, H Davisson, M Nelson, I Craigie.
Hillhead Jordanhill: A Jane; K Bennett, L Mills, E Wills, B Carberry; C McDonald, M McDonald; P Abernethy, S Kyalikunda, S Johnson, K Yeomans, J Ross, H Telling, L McMillan, D Lee©. Subs: H Lockhart, R Millar, S Beal, F Campbell, M-A Wales, P Saverton, E Barlow.
Referee: Mary Pringle.
Watsonians: Try: B Nelson.
Hillhead Jordanhill: Try: Jane. Pen: Jane. Con: Jane.
Scoring sequence (Watsonians first): 0-3; 5-3 (h-t), 5-8; 5-10.
Player-of-the-Match: There were a number of candidates in the Hills pack, while Amanda Jane, their full-back, scored all 10 of the winning team’s points. Centre Briar McNamara tried to get ‘Sonians going all day, but Louise McMillan, the Hills openside, was superb at the breakdown and made a countless number of tackles.
Talking point: Hills’ amazing turnaround! Earlier in 2022, they lost two big games in succession to Watsonians and Heriot’s Blues and they had to dig deep to get back to these heights. Returning Scotland players helped, but to go from a 67-0 loss to an opponent in January to a 10-5 win in May takes some doing and outgoing head coach Aird Jardine, skipper Debbie Lee and everyone else involved in the women’s set-up at Hughenden deserves great credit for that.
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