Women’s Premiership play-offs: semi-final won’t be a walk in the park, but Emma Turner is looking forward to it

Hillhead Jordanhill host Corstorphine Cougars while Watsonians welcome Stirling County to Myreside in Women's Premiership play-off semi-finals

Emma Turner is pictured in her day job - but rugby is her focus this weekend
Emma Turner is pictured in her day job - but rugby is her focus this weekend

CORSTORPHINE COUGARS skipper Emma Turner has spent her week dog walking as part of her job with a company called Sal’s Pals, but this afternoon she will be taking to the field with her rugby pals in the women’s Tennent’s Premiership play-off semi-finals.

The top flight season has been gripping so far with Turner’s Cougars and Stirling County really upping their respective games to cause the top two from pre-pandemic times – Watsonians and Hillhead/Jordanhill – some problems.

Edinburgh-based Cougars came out of the traps flying at the start of the 2021-22 campaign and won on their first five outings, including away triumphs at both Myreside and Hughenden, as well as positive results against County, Heriot’s Blues and Cartha. It left them top of the pile at the halfway point of the regular season in a six team league.

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By the end of the regular season, Watsonians were top of the table after a good second half run while Hillhead were second, Cougars third and Stirling County fourth.

All of which means that Watsonians will host Stirling County at Myreside this afternoon in one play-off semi-final while Hillhead/Jordanhill and Corstorphine will meet in the other last four tie at Hughenden in Glasgow.

Both matches kick-off at 1.30pm and Turner, a 22-year-old second-row, said:  “The squad cannot wait for this match, it has been a while since we played a competitive game, but we have had this Hillhead/Jordanhill fixture in our sights for a while now.

“Over the last couple of weeks the wider squad has trained hard ahead of this one and the spirit in the group is very good. So many players have put their hands up for selection that I think coaches Eric Jones and Gav Paul had a few positive selection headaches and everyone is pushing in the same direction.

“We know just how good a side Hillhead/Jordanhill can be on their day and we respect them, but this season has shown us that we have it in us to compete with the top teams in the country and we have belief in our own abilities.

“Last summer – and moving into this season – there was a really nice vibe building around the squad, led by the tireless work that Eric puts in, and we had a good mix of experience and youth coming together post-pandemic who were all just desperate to play rugby.

“We beat Stirling County first up and then to go to Myreside and win 17-0 gave us confidence because Watsonians were the [2019-20] champions.

“A win at Heriot’s followed before an 11-5 victory away at Hillhead. That was a day we learnt a lot about the group because it was not the prettiest game, but we dug in and tactically we played very well to come out on the right side of things.

“From then on things were a bit more up and down, but we certainly haven’t been hard on ourselves. We know we have had a good season so far and we want to continue that in this semi-final.”

The second regular season meeting of Corstorphine and Hillhead was part of the ‘shared points’ final weekend in December when all six clubs came together in Stirling to mark the sad passing of County and Scotland player Siobhan Cattigan.

As a result, this weekend will be just the second time the two clubs will have locked horns since rugby resumed and while the Glasgow side have Scotland players like Louise McMillan and Evie Wills in their starting XV, Cougars have a former internationalist in Tanya Griffith at 10, an exciting centre pairing of Sula Callender and Jess McClintick and a solid pack to drive them forwards.


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So, how did Turner get into rugby – and, indeed, how did she get into dog walking?

“I started playing rugby under the guidance of Stevie Leckie when I was a pupil at the Royal High School in Edinburgh and I just loved the game,” she explains.

“When I left school I began to play for RHC and then, when the club split into two, I stayed with the women’s team as we became Corstorphine Cougars.

“At that stage we moved to Union Park and we had to build things up again, but Eric has given the set-up a real focal point and things have just gone from strength-to-strength since then.

“In terms of dog walking, I was a modern apprentice with Scottish Rugby working in local primary schools in Edinburgh before the pandemic which was great, but when that role was no longer available I had to look at other things I could do.

“I love dogs and, like many people, got a puppy during one of the lockdowns and then a job opportunity came up with a company called Sal’s Pals.

“Looking after, and walking, a number of dogs from Monday to Friday certainly has its challenges, but I love it and it is really fun.”

It should be a close encounter at Hughenden and many are expecting a tight semi-final tie at Myreside too.

County put in one of their best performances in recent times to defeat ‘Sonians 48-19 at Bridgehaugh in October and that stung the Edinburgh side as they won their next four league matches after that.

The final is due to be on January 29.

Meanwhile, the fifth and sixth place play-off between Heriot’s and Cartha has been postponed due to Covid concerns and, according to the Scottish Rugby website, will now be played on January 22.



VENUE: Hughenden @ 1.30pm


Hillhead/Jordanhill: E Barlow; C McGowan, H McHugh, E Wills, K Bennet; C McDonald, M Wales; P Abernethy, S Kyalikunda, A Johnston, K Yeomans, H Telling, F Campbell, L McMillan©, D Lee©*. Subs: H Lockhart, F Wood, R Millar, M McDonald, L Mills.

*Louise McMillan and Debbie Lee are co-captains

Corstorphine Cougars: K Feeney; E Mullen, J McClintick, S Callender, L Berlinghof; T Griffith, Z Turner; M Danks, K Fraser, E Dunbar, E Turner©, R Moody, L Park, L Glendinning, F Cooper. Subs: TBC.

KEY BATTLE: Evie Wills versus Sula Callender


VENUE: Myreside @ 1.30pm


Watsonians: J Lyons; F McGhee, S Clements, B McNamara, M Nelson; C Bain©, R Law; A Tucker, K King, S Donnelly, N Brown, S Jones, S Kearley, L Wilkie, F Walker. Subs: J Relph, R Sinclair, C Lauder, S Macey, B Nelson.

Stirling County: N Henderson; K Wilson, R Shankland, R Cox, F Keys; B Streets, J Hutton; A Luke©, P Benson, S Maclean, K Lindsay, S Murdoch, L Hagan, H Davis, E Gallagher. Subs: G Duncan, J Farrell, E Hanson, A Coyle, E Sinclair.

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About Gary Heatly 329 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.