by Al Wilson and Gillian Duncan
STIRLING COUNTY girls have become national Club Cup Champions at both Under-15 and Under-18 age groups after winning their respective finals at Murrayfield stadium on Sunday.
The girls’ section at Stirling County has gone from strength to strength in recent years with both age groups reaching the finals of the national competition three years in a row, but this is the first time they have both returned to Bridgehaugh clutching the silverware.
The Under-15s played first, taking on Highland on the international pitch. This was the first time the two teams had met this season, and it proved to be a highly competitive first half. Natasha McEwan opened the scoring for Stirling but Highland were quick to reply through April McKenzie, who then successfully converted her own score to give the Inverness side the lead.
County continued to push in attack leading to Jenna Duncan powering over the line to swing to lead County’s way, with Freya MacColl adding the conversion. Ceitidh Ainsworth then ran the full length of the pitch to extend the Bridgehaugh team’s lead, and further tries from MacColl and Rebecca Davies, against a second Highland try, gave Stirling County a 27-12 half-time advantage.
The second half started at the same breakneck speed as the first had finished, with County extending their lead with tries from Brogan Henderson and Tessia Smyth. Highland fought back with two tries of their own from Aicha Sutcliffe and Rhiannon MacLeod, before County retorted with tries from McEwan, Chloe Brown and Cyan van Schalkwyck. Highland scored in the last play of the game, through Sutcliffe again, to make it 51-29 at the conclusion of an entertaining match.
“I’m extremely proud of every girl pulling on the jersey for the team this season and what a season it’s been,” said Stirling head coach Gillian Duncan. “The girls have finished it unbeaten lifting The Mirage Conference title, The Caledonia Cup and to finish it off with a win at Murrayfield to lift the Club Cup as well is just the icing on the cake.”
As the celebrations subsided, it was the Under-18s turn to run out from the famous Murrayfield tunnel, with Stirling taking on Cartha Queen’s Park in a repeat of the National Mitsubishi Mirage Conference Final, from which Stirling emerged victorious back in November.
This time round, it was a much more competitive affair, with the half-time score showing County leading by 22 points to Cartha’s 10, thanks to tries from Neve Henderson, Freya Walker, Ruby Simpson and Orla Proctor, plus a conversion from Abbie Ledwidge, against two tries from Sarah Macpherson and Amy Mackinnon, for a 10-22 half-time scoreline.
With both teams demonstrating innovation in attack, there was everything to play for in the second period. It was the red, white and black of Stirling County who took the pace to another level after the interval, with the impact from the bench proving too much to handle for the Glasgow outfit. Katie McLaren, Niamh Woods, Eva Fisher and Evie Willis dotting down as the Bridgehaugh side marched to a 44-22 final scoreline.
“It has been an incredible journey for these girls and today is just rewards for the hard work they have put in all season,” said Al Wilson, the Under-18s’ head coach. “To finish at Murrayfield with an unprecedented double-double is just fantastic for every player, coach, manager, and volunteer. We pride ourselves in being one big County family, and today shows just what that means. Proud doesn’t come close.”
Stirling County are the first club ever to win both the national league and the national Club Cup at both Under-15 and Under-18 level in the same year, etching their names in the history books forever.
Stirling’s Director of Women’s and Girls Rugby, Jackie Clark, added: “Female rugby is the fastest growing sport in this country and the display today from all teams involved shows the potential we have on offer. I hope to see many of these cup-winning girls continue to play in the red, white, and black for our senior women’s team in the Premiership and continue to enjoy their rugby for years to come.”
Stirling County offers rugby for all girls from age 10 to 18, and their women’s team compete in the Tennent’s Premiership.
Meanwhile, Biggar defeated Hillhead Jordanhill 76-17 in Under-18 Shield Final, and Caithness were 63-26 conquerers of Lismore in the Under-15 Shield Final.