Dave Flynn reports on the Ladies 55-0 victory over Stirling County
This Sunday saw the ladies first fixture of the Premierships’ top 4 split and, having had a fortnight off, they were raring to go.
The last time these sides met at Bridgehaugh in September, it culminated in a narrow loss for the away side and so the plan to attack hard and early was evident, as Watsonians raced into an early lead. First to cross after a back and forth opening 5 minutes was Al King following a driving maul. This was followed shortly after by Emma Evans who sold a ridiculous dummy to part the centres and go under the posts to make it 12-0 with 10 played. We’d been here before with Stirling (having taken an early lead only to see it clawed back) so it was pleasing to see the ladies be so clinical with their chances at this point in the game.
Transition from defence to attack in open play had been sharp all day and this was to provide the catalyst for the next score; a fumble in the home half by Stirling was picked up and a gap spotted by Emma Evans, who released Bryony to beat 4 defenders and round off the opportunity before Stirling could reset in defence.
In her first start at Loose head (and a fine first start performance it was) Ailie Tucker was next to cross with the try of the match; practically every member of the side touched the ball in the 3 phases beforehand and showed good patience before Ailie dotted down in the left-hand corner. Bryony was to get in on the act again before the half was out; a quick tap from Captain Nicola was moved right to Sarah Jones who showed deft hands to move the ball on to Bry Nelson in space. Her pace saw her beat 4 defenders to score from within her own half.
At the changing of the ends, Stirling huffed and puffed for a few minutes though the result was a foregone conclusion by this stage as Watsonians crossed again through Charlotte Runcie, 6 minutes into the half with a typical winger break as she rounded 2 defenders out wide. The changes were rung at the switching of ends; Panashe Muzambe replaced Emily Armstrong, who had another combative outing at 7, and Freya Gannon Burns and Emily Cotterill were brought on to bring a fresh impetus to the back row shortly after as Lana Skeldon moved into her primary national team role of hooker. All 3 had commendable performances in the Myreside sunshine. The home team scrum had been dominant all day and, at 8, Emily showed great control and composure at the base as her front 5, along with Nash and Freya, walked her over the line from 7m out.
Helen Blevins and Chloe McCue provided fresh legs to the backline at this point. Captain Nicola Nightingale was bossing proceedings at 10 throughout and slotted 5 conversions on the day, though Bryony Nelson was to have the final say with 2 further scores in a fine showing of finishing from her in the right-hand corner.
Stirling don’t seem to pose the same issues away from Bridgehaugh as they do at home though to give them credit, at several points in the game they posed a greater threat than the scoreline would suggest. They also had some last-minute reshuffling of personnel, which won’t have helped preparations for the match, but it was clear from the week leading up to this fixture, and before, that Watsonians ladies intended to settle a score from their last meeting and showed a real ruthlessness in attack. Whilst 55 points scored is pleasing, the defensive effort shown to keep their opposition out was also a just reward for their hard work in this area over the last few weeks.
A comprehensive team performance of this nature brings a harder choice for player of the match. The forwards did a great job of providing the platform for her scoring exploits, and any one of them could have been selected, though for her general play and ruthless finishing to score 4 tries, it was Bryony Nelson who won the vote of both teams. The rest of the squad wish Bry and Lana Skeldon all the best as they head off to Italy for a Scotland team camp later this week.
Next up for the ladies is an away fixture vs Corstorphine Cougars on the 11th November before their final game of this transition season against Hillhead Jordanhill at Myreside on Sunday 18th (both fixtures are 2pm kick-offs) as they seek to finish the season strongly.
Match Day Squad (All used): Ailie Tucker, Molly Wright, Libby McCue, Celine Thery, Sarah Jones, Lana Skeldon, Emily Armstrong, Alice King, Emma Jones, Nicola Nightingale, Charlotte Runcie, Emma Evans, Abbie Baillie, Bryony Nelson, Isla Craigie, Emily Cotterill, Freya Gannon-Burns, Panashe Muzambe, Helen Blevins, Chloe McCue.
(Photograph courtesy of WFC Official Photographer Graham Gaw)